MU engineering school to complete 4,500 face shields for professors

1 month 3 weeks 3 days ago Friday, August 07 2020 Aug 7, 2020 Friday, August 07, 2020 3:07:00 PM CDT August 07, 2020 in News
By: Joey Miller, KOMU 8 Reporter
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COLUMBIA — MU's College of Engineering has been producing face shields for professors to wear on campus this fall since July 22.

The project  began days after UM System president and MU Chancellor Mun Choi announced instructors would be required to wear face shields for in-person classes.

"The face shields are primarily being used because we need a way for students to actually see the face of the faculty member as they speak, so that there can be lip-reading for those who are [hearing] impaired," Noah Manring, interim dean of the College of Engineering, said.

As of Friday, the College of Engineering had completed 2,174 face shields.

Brandon Guffey, director of business services at the College of Engineering, said they hope to complete their goal as soon as next week.

"We're hoping to have 4,500 complete by next Wednesday," Guffey said.

A committee at the MU College of Engineering was formed in March to discuss making the personal protective equipment.

"We saw a need to supply the campus and the community with PPE," Guffey said.

The College of Engineering has been working since April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, making face shields, hand sanitizer and nasal swabs for testing. 

Guffey said the college came together to provide not only the campus, but the community with these face shields as well.

"We had faculty and staff and students come together and make face shields for the Columbia Public Schools, we've made them for the faculty on campus and we've made cuffs for the [MU] hospital to help with the frontline workers," Guffey said.

Guffey said each shield costs about $10 to make.

The College of Engineering designed a mold for the headband that is being produced out of a company in San Diego.

"The cost is net zero. It costs about $30,000 to get those produced, and then the bookstore is actually reimbursing us for that cost," Guffey said, of the face shield headbands. "It doesn't cost the College of Engineering anything other than we're donating a significant amount of time to the campus."

The plastic is cut with a machine in stacks and is brought upstairs to a small group of engineering students and faculty to screw in three screws at the top of each face shield to connect the headband to the cover.

"They take about 45 seconds to make one once we actually start the process," Guffey said. "We have a good team of four or five people that can knock those out pretty fast."

The workers made around 100 masks on Friday morning. Guffey said they can typically make more in a day, but it is entirely dependent on the shipments of the headbands.

"What we typically do is around 500 and that's just because that's what the shipment comes in every night is," Guffey said. "We get about 500 headbands and we're able to knock those out in a morning."

Gary Solbrekken, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor at the University of Missouri, is one of the many MU faculty that will have to wear these face shields this upcoming semester.

He said he prefers the shields over face masks when it comes to teaching students face-to-face.

"One way in which the shield is nice is that it at least provides that type of communication that those non-verbal cues to be able to communicate, you know, whatever intent to students," Solbrekken said.

Solbrekken has been teaching for 17 years. He said professors have been forced to make major adjustments and this upcoming fall semester will be no different.

"I think it's just going to be an interesting experience for a lot of us," Solbrekken said. "It's a new time, a new situation for virtually all of us."

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