Eastern Michigan University community members making protective equipment for area healthcare workers

Extensive effort supported by GameAbove alumni group includes masks, face shields, and involves students, faculty and staff

Dave Pawlowski, Associate Professor of Physics with face shields
Faculty members Dave Pawlowski, pictured here, Phil Rufe and Lamar Stewart are using 3D printers and laser cutters to make face shields or parts for face shields.

YPSILANTI – Students, faculty and staff at Eastern Michigan University are engaged in a broad effort to make supplies for area healthcare professionals and front-line organizations battling the COVID-19 crisis. 

The project involves more than 100 EMU community members making masks, parts for face shields or face shields. 

“We are providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital and for community organizations and EMU offices that have essential and critical infrastructure workers,” said Decky Alexander, a professor at EMU and director of academic programs at Engage@EMU, which is overseeing the project.  

GameAbove, a group of successful EMU alumni that has supported a variety of programs and initiatives at Eastern, has provided resources for the project, which also recently launched a Crowd Funding campaign with the EMU Foundation.

"GameAbove is key in supporting the EMU PPE project, both in terms of supplies/resources and student personnel," Alexander said. "Their support allows us to include more volunteers, and subsequently provide more PPE resources for both St. Joe's and local organizations or programs in need."

Managing the initiative are Kristen Klochko, Communications & Operations, Engage; and Julie Vogl, graduate assistant for Engage.

Vogl and Klochko explained that the effort involves a complex work flow for each PPE item:

Julie Vogl drops off fabric for a volunteer to make masks
Julie Vogl drops off fabric for a volunteer to make masks like the one she is wearing.

For the Mask Project

  • Volunteers fill out the form identifying their interest in cutting and/or sewing of masks or making face shields. The majority of this project is currently focused on making fabric masks for St. Jospeh Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital and other local medical/community centers such as Hope Clinic, Corner Health, and the Family Empowerment Program.
  • Once individuals have submitted their volunteer application, Engage staff sends directions on where to pick up fabric if they do not already have their own supply, as well as details on specifications for cutting the fabric for the sewing kits. 
  • When the items are completed, volunteers drop them off (either cut fabric or full masks) to bins at the EMU Department of Public Safety. 
  • Masks are cut and sewed according to approved designs by the St. Joseph Ann Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital Incident Response Team. 

Where do the fabric and cutting kits come from? 

  • Ann Arbor Sewing Center is working with Engage@EMU to help source the fabric and cutting kits (rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat) for our volunteers.
  • All fabric is located at a pick-up point at the EMU Department of Public Safety. 
face shields being made
Face shields and their parts are created with laser cutters and 3D printers by EMU faculty.

Face Shield Project

  • Face shields have been created and donated to St. Joe’s, University of Michigan hospitals, Washtenaw County Veteran Services and other medical centers. Volunteers can use their own 3D printers and laser cutters and connect with the EMU faculty group to complete the item.
  • The headbands of the face shields are then dropped off at the EMU Department of Public Safety bins as well. 
  • Then headbands are then dropped off to Maker Works in Ann Arbor, which attaches the shield material and distributes to local hospitals and medical centers based on need. 
  • Faculty members Dave Pawlowski (physics), Phil Rufe (engineering technology) and Lamar Stewart (engineering technology) are using 3D printers and laser cutters to make face shields or parts for face shields.
Ray Beiry accepting box of 90 masks for EMU Physical Plant.
Ray Beiry receives a box of 90 masks for EMU Physical Plant.

On Monday, April 13, the PPE Production Project was also able to donate 100 fabric masks to the EMU Physical Plant to support essential staff and workers. 

“This project is a county wide effort that includes four community organizations: Makers Works, the Ann Arbor Sewing Center, Operation Face Shield and St. Joe's,” Alexander said. 

“This is a true EMU story, an affirmation of who we are and how we work with the community,” Alexander said. 

Engage@EMU is the University’s outward facing office, charged with cultivating relationships, initiating and/or coordinating community and business partnerships and programs. Information on EMU’s PPE project is available on the project website.

Local health care facilities and community organizations or programs in need of PPE and other resources can fill out a COVID 19 Community Request Form.

Questions on the PPE project and ways to participate can be directed to emu_engage@emich.edu

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves nearly 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

April 15, 2020

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Media Contact:
Geoff Larcom