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School uses high-tech lab to protect medical workers during COVID-19

Delivering the intubation boxes to Wellstar Kennestone Hospital are, from left, Cameron Mills, Adna Muliawan, Madi Anderson, Chris Chapman and Rachael Beck. Photo contributed by The Weber School.
Delivering the intubation boxes to Wellstar Kennestone Hospital are, from left, Cameron Mills, Adna Muliawan, Madi Anderson, Chris Chapman and Rachael Beck. Photo contributed by The Weber School.

As healthcare workers worried about personal protective equipment shortages, a private school community in metro Atlanta looked at its new, state-of-art, high-tech fabrication lab and asked: How can we help?

Ryan Diamond, a rising senior at The Weber School, a Jewish high school in Sandy Springs, watched news reports of how a Georgia Tech lab, with funding from the Coca-Cola Company, produced equipment for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Diamond knew his school’s lab was capable of manufacturing similar products.

The Daniel Zalik Academy Fab Lab, which opened in the fall, is equipped with 3D and vinyl printers, laser cutters, robotics, and other high-tech instruments.

“I wondered if Weber could get involved in doing good during this weird time,” Diamond said.

The 17-year-old began emailing teachers and calling companies. His teacher, Madi Anderson, a 2018 Industrial Design graduate from Georgia Tech, was already on it.

“We were very inspired to help out and do something,” said Anderson, who teaches design classes and manages the Fab Lab. “We have this equipment and this lab, and all we needed were the materials and to see what people needed.”

Weber’s instructors learned there was a critical need for intubation boxes. The inexpensive clear acrylic devices are used as shields between COVID-19 patients and healthcare providers during the ventilation process. Typically, disposable intubation bags are used, but they are one-time-use-only, whereas boxes can be sanitized and reused.

Through networking, Anderson found out that Wellstar Health System needed 21 intubation boxes for its metro area hospital emergency rooms and ICUs.

This was the perfect project for The Daniel Zalik Academy lab, said Ed Rabbi Harwitz, Weber’s head of school. The lab’s mission is to prepare students to do good in the community and throughout the world, he said.

The Zalik Academy trains Weber students in the sciences, and the lab also is a resource for Atlanta’s Jewish educational community.

The Weber community all played a part in the intubation project. Ryan, his parents, Doug and Margo Diamond, along with Weber parents Anat and Brian Granath, contacted Home Depot executives who helped them find acrylic sheets for fabrication. Design plans were readily available online, and school officials agreed to pay production costs.

After getting detailed specifications from Wellstar, Anderson led a team of Weber instructors that included Chris Chapman, director of technology and design, Adna Muliawan, director of scientific research and entrepreneurship, Cathy Chapman, technology teacher, and Cameron Mills, Fab Lab assistant manager.

Mindful of the quarantine and social distancing requirements, Weber teachers worked in rotating shifts, with only one person at a time in the lab. Parents stayed involved by bringing meals. Anderson even took the boxes home with her, working into the night to assemble them.

Because medical workers are most at risk for COVID-19 during intubation, Anderson designed additional rubber padding around the armholes for a tighter seal and placed a pad on the back of the box to store a disposable bag to drape over the patient.

“We wanted to make sure that at the moment when they are the most exposed that they would be the most protected,” she said.

Harwitz said his staff went “above and beyond expectations to get the job done, which speaks to the expertise, talent, and commitment of these professionals.”

Weber’s team delivered the 21 boxes to Wellstar Kennestone Hospital less than one week after beginning the assignment, which was one week earlier than the deadline.

“This was such an incredible, supportive work environment, which is the only way you can get something like this done in such a quick turnaround,” Anderson said.

In addition to the intubation boxes, the staff at The Daniel Zalik Academy also is fabricating the frames for face shields for healthcare workers. The frames will be delivered to nonprofit Atlanta Face Shields for assembly and delivery.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU ABOUT THE INTUBATION BOX PROJECT?

Margo Diamond, parent — "They (Weber instructors) are the most incredible, amazing people. They worked non-stop to get this project going. All the credit goes to them."

David Zalik, of the Zalik Foundation Fund — "We are so proud of the students and teachers at The Weber School, who are using their science lab to create much needed medical equipment in near real-time for our caregivers on the front lines when they need it most."

Ed Harwitz, Head of School, The Weber School — "The school has the ability through its staff and the lab, and there was a desire to support medical providers who are saving lives every day. It was an honor to do so."

Madi Anderson, design teacher and Zalik Fab Lab manager — "Healthcare workers put themselves on the line. They're heroes, and their families worry about them all day. If we can make anything in our lab to make them more comfortable during this time we want to do that."