In early March, Rochester Institute of Technology alumnus Corey Mack received an email from the U.S. Department of Defense asking start-ups and entrepreneurs to build emergency ventilators for under $300.

Mack also was keeping up with news in New York state, and heard the governor’s call for masks, shields and ventilator equipment. After looking through company patent information and YouTube videos about the equipment, he saw the ventilator problem as “simple pneumatics.”

“Not exactly simple from a regulations perspective, but it is an air pump and some valves,” Mack said.

Within days, his idea became a design that complied closely with the required pieces of emergency ventilators. Once Mack put that design up on Facebook, he had a groundswell of help from a familiar community — RIT alumni, former faculty and friends of the university. The project is called Covid19Vent.

Alumni understood the Food and Drug Administration process, which includes documenting in detail where and how each of the parts was produced. Mack called upon classmates from RIT’s College of Engineering Technology.

Another aspect for his team is setting up the production process of building components for the device that could be used within hospitals or free-standing emergency set-ups. Some of those components could be 3D printed and several resources emerged with on-campus support from Mike Buffalin, manager of RIT’s makerspace, The Construct ; alumni such as Andrew Kowalczyk from D3 Engineering; and former faculty members such as Chance Glenn.

Buffalin consulted on the design and 3D-print capabilities for prototyping. Providing the system architecture expertise necessary for the ventilators, Kowalczyk saw the work as a way to close the gap of needed equipment.

“This will provide a low-cost ventilator that is easy to manufacture, simple to use and easy to distribute to hospitals that don’t have enough ventilators on-site,” Kowalczyk said.

Glenn was a faculty member in the College of Engineering Technology. He is in the process of establishing a new engineering program at the University of Houston-Victoria and offered its 3D-print services.

“While New York state is a hotspot in the U.S. right now, this will cascade over much of the country. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” Glenn said. “Efforts like this can impact this state, the nation and the world. People are beginning to realize this and are stepping up.”

Funding included gifts in-kind of software and expertise to implement designs. Mack especially highlighted support from AutoDesk. Ventilator prototypes are being built and tested.

Contributors include RIT alumni Jonathan Fischer, Juan Jackson, David Moffitt, James Ryan and Joseph Wong; Simone Center members Richard DiMartino, Donald Pophal and Anthony Testa; and DaVita Carnegie-Mack, Al’exa Kelley and Brian O’Shaunessy.


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