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Cal Poly professors adapting courses and students working on homemade ventilators amid coronavirus

Posted at 11:45 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 02:45:07-04

With classes now being taught virtually, some Cal Poly engineering professors are adapting their courses, allowing students to work on projects that could help during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cal Poly lecturer Eric Paton wanted to try and fix the limited supply of ventilators, so he redesigned his spring quarter class. Students are now using the time learning from home to work on writing service manuals and even creating homemade ventilators.

"What I have them working on is to help me write the repair manuals for the ventilators -- the existing ventilators," said Paton.

While his class of 70 students is working to create step-by-step instructions for ventilators, the U.S. Department of defense was also looking for help.

The department created a challenge asking participants to develop a low-cost ventilator; one that could even be built with local supplies.

Paton reached out to some of his students about the program, and two of them were ready to join.

"Me and Cameron, were really interested and we said yeah we'd love to help. We'd love to get our hands on some work to apply what we learned in school into the real world," said Ryan Lee, Cal Poly student.

Never having built a ventilator, it took plenty of research for both Ryan Lee and Cameron Wong, but that might have played to their advantage in trying to make equipment with everyday items.

"A lot of household items that you would see everyday in your kitchen -- things like Ziploc bags," said Cameron Wong, Cal Poly student.

"Our ideas weren't some complex theory that some professor spent 10 plus years working on. It was something we could find online; we researched and something we thought could work," said Lee.

While they didn't get chosen to move forward in the department of defense's challenge, both students say they're going to continue with their project.

"Anyway that we can help out is really our goal. we want to help the world cure the coronavirus as soon as possible," said Wong.

The students say they don't have a date on when their ventilator will be complete, but their plan is to start working with the university's biomedical engineering department on the next steps.