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Banding Together

Post-Doctoral Research Assistant Bapi Bera and graduate student Frida Roenning helped in the headband printing efforts.

One of the things that sets UT apart is a belief in the Volunteer Spirit. The notion that, when times are their toughest, UT students, faculty, staff, and alumni will rise to meet the occasion.

It shone through in March, when the coronavirus brought many aspects of life around the world to a halt, including the end of in-person classes at UT for the semester.

Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, challenged public universities across the state to help meet the demand for face shields. Schools responded in a big way, producing 10,000 shields through the use of 3D printing. For its part, UT printed 1,200 headbands for the shields in the first three days of the effort, with another 2,000 (and counting) delivered by early April.

At UT, the Tickle College of Engineering, College of Architecture and Design, and College of Arts and Sciences all contributed to the cause.

“Seeing the way that UT, ORNL, and partners came together was unprecedented in both timing and result,” said MABE’s UT–ORNL Governor’s Chair for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Uday Vaidya, who coordinated the effort.

Fabrication of the gear took place at a number of locations, including Vaidya’s space at the Fibers and Composites Manufacturing Facility and Engineering Annex (FCMF), the college’s Innovation and Collaboration Studio, and the College of Architecture and Design’s Fab Lab.

On the initial run, people worked through the night to produce the gear, something that was replicated elsewhere, according to Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Matthew Mench.

“People took printers home with them so that they could work on the headbands every available minute,” Mench said. “Helping the community and the state under a tight deadline is the absolute embodiment of the Volunteer Spirt.”

From engineering, Vaidya was joined by fellow faculty members Doug Aaron, Brett Compton, Chad Duty, Caleb Rucker, and Matthew Young of MABE; Chris Wetteland of MSE; and FCMF’s Vanina Ghossein.

More than a dozen students also aided the effort, led by Alex Stiles, a doctoral student in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education.

While the fight against Covid-19 continues in hospitals and medical facilities across the world, the efforts undertaken by those at UT show they aren’t fighting it alone, and our Volunteer Spirit is with them.