The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday January 20th

Meet the students and volunteers making face shields to donate during COVID-19

<p>Face shields are personal protective equipment, or PPE, used to protect health care workers. Students and volunteers are using UNC's makerspaces to create face shields and help address a PPE shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Pegram.</p>
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Face shields are personal protective equipment, or PPE, used to protect health care workers. Students and volunteers are using UNC's makerspaces to create face shields and help address a PPE shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Pegram.

Students and volunteers are using machinery at the BeAM makerspaces to create and assemble face shields — aiming to create about 40,000 of them — for employees at UNC Health hospitals due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kalleen Kelley, a senior neuroscience and psychology major, is an educational program specialist at BeAM and is doing administrative work with BeAM’s effort in making face shields.

Kelley said the students and volunteers have assembled about 11,000 shields so far and plan to make 10,000 per week for several weeks.

The face shields serve as additional personal protective equipment for health care workers to wear on top of their medical-grade masks, Kelley said.

Each shield is made of a clear plastic panel that covers the face, a foam piece that rests on the forehead, and an elastic band that keeps it secure, said Lindsey Pegram, an employee at BeAM who helps make the components for the shields.

Pegram, a first-year environmental health sciences and Hispanic linguistics major, said she got involved in the effort at BeAM so she could support health care workers in a more active way.

“I know I’m helping by being at home, but it was almost like a passive helping,” Pegram said. “I just wanted to do something tangible to help.”

Josh McCorquodale, a sophomore business administration major, also works at BeAM and has been making face shield components.

He said BeAM employees make components, box them in kits and send them to another area where volunteers assemble the materials into shields, which are then packaged and sent to hospitals.

Typically, the makerspaces at UNC are places where students can use machinery such as 3D printers and laser cutters to design and create objects for their projects and research.

Kelley said this operation is unique because it uses the makerspace in a different capacity than usual.

“BeAM is not a manufacturing enterprise,” she said. “We are a prototyping space for students to be able to come in and feel free to make things.”

However, she said she is glad to see the space being used to help during the COVID-19 crisis.

“In this case, I’ve learned that making is essential,” she said.

McCorquodale said he thinks making PPE is important because of how much health care workers do to keep people safe. He also said making PPE can help alleviate health care employees’ concerns over being protected at work.

“I think if we can do something to help with that concern, it’s worthwhile,” he said.

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