Engineering a cleaner, healthier campus
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold, Jason Robinson couldn’t have predicted his mechanical engineering skills playing a role in Ohio State’s reopening.
That was before he led a project by the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) to design and produce 1,500 stainless steel sanitizing stations placed all around campus.
“CDME is really a group of seasoned engineers who bring a lot of expertise from a large variety of backgrounds,” Robinson said. “And sometimes that expertise is just knowing how to get things done quickly.
“For this one, we knew we were accommodating something very important. We wanted to be part of the solution for making sure the opening was safe. Getting the opportunity to help was really encouraging. I know everyone who worked with me felt the same.”
The project began mid-summer when the Department of Facilities Operations and Development was struggling to find sanitization stands to buy. Everywhere that sold them was either sold out or charging high prices. In fact, the university was faced with spending as much as $2 million to outfit the campus.
So Nate Ames, CDME’s director who is on Ohio State’s production support task force, suggested that his team create the stands for the university’s needs. Once the idea was approved, Robinson and his team came up with a design, ordered the materials and began fabricating and building the stands.
CDME’s team of engineers and students first produced 230 stands for the recreational facilities around campus. A few weeks later, they had created more than 1,400 stands that were placed in buildings from academic buildings to residence halls.
Each sanitizing stand costs less than $100 and is designed for long-term use. When COVID-19 is over, the strong, stainless steel material and design will allow for uses such as wayfinding in buildings or outside for football games, crosswalks or university tours.
“We wanted to do this in a way that adds long-term value to the university,” Ames said. “Once coronavirus has passed, we didn’t want to just take them to a landfill.
“It was a good project to be part of. We saved the university a ton of money, and we got a bunch of students involved who now have hands-on experience in crisis mode doing production. And the stands turned out awesome. They look like what you’d expect a university of Ohio State’s caliber to have.”
CDME also has been working with Ohio State experts as part of a national team to develop solutions for health care workers at the Wexner Medical Center as well as across the United States. CDME helped ramp up production of 3D printed COVID-19 testing swabs for the Wexner Medical Center and created ventilator splitters to allow more intensive care patients access to ventilators. The team also helped develop an “aerosol box” to protect health care professionals when treating patients.
“My lesson learned out of this pandemic has been the value Ohio State offers to the state of Ohio and the nation,” Ames said. “With every one of those projects, you go home at night feeling like you did something important, that your value to the global community is better today than it was yesterday. And I think students and staff absolutely feel that.”
Published: October 19, 2020