Professor Joins Effort in Building Medical Shields During Pandemic

Dr. Shawn Stone, Professor of Physics and Computer Science, has teamed up with fellow Iowans to make medical shields for healthcare providers during the coronavirus pandemic by using BVU's 3-D printer. The project grows as more orders come in.

A Buena Vista University professor has joined a local effort to create additional medical shields for healthcare providers in the midst of the COVID-19 battle. Dr. Shawn Stone, Professor of Physics and Computer Science, has taken time from his sabbatical this semester to utilize his skills as a 3-D printer in printing bands that hold clear acrylic shields in place on the head of a doctor or nurse.

Adam Perry, Director of Instrumental Music for the Sioux Central Community School District based in Sioux Rapids, and Rick Ayers, who owns Lakes Marketing and Printing in Spirit Lake, coordinate the effort. Perry heads the push to print head bands; Ayers makes clear screens out of lamination film for this kind of personal protective equipment.

The demand for medical shields has grown acute as caregivers treat patients across the world who are afflicted with the deadly and highly contagious coronavirus.

“Originally, we were only going to print 50 to 100 of the bands,” Stone says. “But we’ve already gotten orders for more than 500.”

“People all over the world are getting together to help the medical profession in any way they can.”

Dr. Shawn Stone

Stone prints eight bands per day as 3-D printing is a highly complex process that occasionally fails mid-session due to vibrations and fluctuations in temperatures, among other variables. Stone, who uses BVU’s 3-D printer, technology purchased with funding from the Stine Endowment, is hopeful he can increase output in the coming weeks as needs intensify in the Midwest. Perry, who began 3-D printing last fall, notes he can print 10 head bands daily.

Stone’s connection to Perry came via Donna Musel, Director of BVU’s Center for Academic Excellence. Musel learned of Perry’s search for volunteers to assist in the push for additional medical head bands. She pointed Stone to Perry and the process accelerated, much to the delight of medical staffers at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center and elsewhere.

Dr. Shawn Stone shows off a medical mask
Dr. Shawn Stone shows off the medical shields he is helping create with BVU's 3-D printer.

Interestingly, a new BVU hire, Assistant Professor of Agronomy Geoffrey Ecker, a 3-D printing enthusiast, participates in a similar medical-shield effort, Masks for Docs. Ecker, who currently teaches in Arkansas, plans to relocate to the Storm Lake area later this summer in advance of his start in serving BVU’s Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Resource Development.

“If Professor Ecker is into 3-D printing, then we have a lot to talk about,” Stone says of his future colleague.

“People all over the world are getting together to help the medical profession in any way they can,” says Stone, who is also making 35 new shield/head bands for the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota. “I just happen to have the resources at BVU and the time to devote to it.”

During his sabbatical this semester, Stone continues to research methods in harnessing vertical wave energy from Storm Lake. He’s in the process of forming a business and will one day market an invention that could provide electrical power to consumers in and around Storm Lake.