Cal Poly graduate who works for Nasa helps create ventilators to combat the coronavirus crisis

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Posted at 5:53 AM, May 12, 2020

Cal Poly alum, Shaunessy Grant, graduated in 2017 and is now working with NASA to create ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A year after graduating, Grant began working for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on groundbreaking projects that involve Jupiter and Mars.

In response to the pandemic, Grant is now working on a team that helps develop easy-to-make ventilators meant to treat coronavirus patients.

"I think this is an amazing opportunity to give back during this unsettling time," said Grant, who has a degree from Cal Poly in mechanical engineering, with a concentration on manufacturing.

In just 37 days, Grant and the team created a ventilator made from readily available parts, that would help critically ill virus patients breathe.

Recently approved by the FDA, The Vital Intervention Technology Accessible Locally (VITAL) project features several benefits. Its flexible design means it can be modified for use in field hospitals being set up in convention centers, hotels and other high-capacity facilities. Intended to last three or four months, the new device wouldn't replace current hospital ventilators, which can last years and are built to address a broader range of medical issues, plus it's easily manufactured.

Grant served as the lead quality assurance engineer on the floor. She performed much hands-on assembly work, from piece part inspections to workmanship oversight to final testing and shipping.

Grant said she was happy to contribute to a possible solution, and felt well prepared to do so thanks to her time at Cal Poly.

"I think the biggest thing I got from Cal Poly was how to work with different personalities on high intensity teams," she said. "As a Hardware quality assurance engineer, I'm often in deadline-driven situations with incredibly smart team members who each have valid, strong, and diverse opinions, and I need to be able to handle those dynamic relationships in real-time."