CARNEYS POINT, N.J. — Members of South Jersey Robotics (SJR), although sidelined from competing this spring, are using their ingenuity and goodwill to create masks and shields for healthcare workers in three states.
Operation NOvid is led by Nate Simpkins, Mike Marandola, Seth Simpkins, and Micah Loman of SJR’s LUNATECS team.
The LUNATECS, comprised of high school students and adult mentors, is affiliated with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), described as a global robotics community. The award-winning LUNATECS team is based at Salem Community College in Carneys Point.
The volunteers are using nine 3D printers to make masks after mentor Nate Simpkins received requests from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Washington Township, Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in Hammonton, and a hospital in upstate New York. Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware is also benefiting. The team has made about 500 masks and plans to produce more.
Nate, a third-year engineering technology student at Rowan University, directs a team of SJR mentors and students through remote collaboration. After modifying a respirator design shared by Billings Clinic Foundation, SJR obtained funding and started the print and assembly processes.
“The masks are not intended as a substitute for the N95 model,” said SJR President Kathy Simpkins. “They primarily act as a mechanical barrier in the absence of standard personal protective equipment, or PPE, and are certainly more effective than a bandana or paper surgical mask.”
“The project is rapidly moving along in response to demand from medical professions in need of them,” she said. “Those on the front lines battling this health crisis are in need of respirator masks and full face shields which can be washed, disinfected, and reused in an emergency shortage.”
The team is using CNC (Computer Numerical Control) equipment to manufacture the shields. “Our design includes a head piece that the shields attach to,” Simpkins said. “The headpieces — think along the lines of a band around the top of the head — will hold the shields securely.”
Simpkins said Operation NOvid expands SJR’s five-year-old adaptive device program that already features:
● A volleyball launcher with Delaware Easter Seals. The LUNATECS designed, tested, manufactured, and donated the equipment to enable a quadriplegic to launch a volleyball into play in their annual fundraiser;
● The Jump Assist project with the Tatnall School in Wilmington, Del., enabling a five-year-old child with a congenital amputation to jump rope like all the other children in his class; and
● Adaptive swim fins for the Adaptive Diving Association, which gave veterans injured in battle and individuals with spinal cord injuries the opportunity for independence through SCUBA diving.
“SJR’s adaptive device program is a way for our high school students to apply what they’ve learned during training sessions and the competition season, and each project they have worked on has had significant impact,” she said.