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Collaboration among college students in a time of crisis

In one week, a team of students in a joint biotech medical lab with Georgia Tech and Emory students started making and distributing face shields to help save lives.

ATLANTA — This is a story about collaboration in a time of crisis. A group of Georgia Tech and Emory students learning the skills they hoped would change the world someday, found that day is now.

They are making and distribute supplies to protect Emory healthcare workers as they work to save lives.

The need is now and it is growing by the day. It compelled a team of students in a joint biotech medical lab with Georgia Tech and Emory to help.

In one week, they designed and started the production of face shields for medical workers.

“The goal is to meet the needs locally to actually supply the Georgia Department of Public Health and when they have enough to actually supply the federal Department of Public Health stockpile.” said Dr. Susan Margulies. She is the Chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department at Georgia Tech and Emory.

Healthcare workers are using more protective equipment than ever before.

“Because of the really high utilization of PPE in caring for patients we’ve gone 10-20 times what we usually have and so it’s hard to keep up with that.” Kari Love said.

Love is Emory Healthcare’s Director of Infection Prevention. She is also a registered nurse. She was the go-between. She took the design from the lab to the front line.

“I’d bring it over to the hospital have some healthcare workers try it, and then make a few suggestions, get it back to them, then make those edits," she said.

Dr. Christopher Saldana is an assistant professor and a Georgia Tech Mechanical Engineer.

"With Kari we were able to give her these prototypes. She would meet my team here on campus,  try them on and then go back to the hospital and then get feedback from them," he said. "The students that were involved in this project did a great job trying to address those needs for the clinicians immediately and then our second iteration Kari would come back and pick up more products."

It had to be just right; but it had to be done fast.

Susan Cohen is with the Global Center for Medical Innovation.

"When a physician comes to you and says every hour we don’t have these someone is at risk of dying, it compels you to move faster and move faster than you thought you could," she said.

They’ve now made deliveries to Emory Hospital; and they are making up to 1,000 shields a day.

Now the Coca-Cola Company is helping. They brought 6,000 pounds of plastic sheeting to Georgia Tech’s campus to make more.

It’s enough supplies for 50,000 surgical shields.

"Out of people are able to come together and collaborate in a way that doesn’t happen in a normal climate and I think it’s impressive the way people are willing to collaborate," Cohen said.

Dr. Samuel Graham is the Chair of the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech.

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"They were quick to jump on board and to help," he said. "Siemens, very gracious and generous in offering help."

They pulled in companies like Lazer Tech, Dupont, and Georgia Pacific. They are donating materials.  

"We’re beginning to see Coca Cola and Lockheed Martin come on board, so we’re really thankful for that," he said.

The next generation of scientists are helping to lead the way and compelling others to join them through unprecedented times.

"Out of people are able to come together and collaborate in a way that doesn’t happen in a normal climate and I think it’s impressive the way people are willing to collaborate," Cohen said. 

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus.  We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information. 

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information. 

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