College of Aeronautics and Engineering Faculty and Staff Use Their Talents to Respond to COVID-19

Four College of Aeronautics and Engineering faculty members are helping to combat the impact of COVID-19, lending their expertise and design skills.

Yanhai Du

Yanhai Du, Ph.D., associate professor: Du is participating in America Makes’ competition to design a fitting Face Mask Design Challenge. This challenge yields mask designs that demonstrate considerable fit improvements from currently available options.

America Makes, in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Youngstown, Ohio, announced the challenge to support the ongoing shortage of safe and effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for COVID-19 frontline workers.

With just one-week of time to complete the project, Du and his graduate research assistant Hai Feng accepted the challenge by creating two concepts of better continuous fit-to-face contact for a wide range of face types.

“The concept is for critical medical workers who wants to be 100 percent protected and needs a custom fit mask, they can take photos using their cellphones and send the images to us,” Du says. “From these images, we are able to build 3D models and print the masks.”

Five digital headform datasets were shared by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to assist participants in crafting submissions. Other challenge criteria included instructions for use, manufacturability, assembly and manufacturing instructions.

During his career, Du has been awarded 11 patents. During the time at KSU he received one patent award and filed three applications which are pending.


Darwin Boyd

Darwin Boyd, Ph.D., associate professor: Boyd is working to create more than 2,000 face shields at the College of Aeronautics and Engineering (CAE) and other colleges on campus, using 3D printing to combat COVID-19.

Thanks to the United Way of Portage County donating $3,000 and Burton D. Morgan giving $10,000, Kent State University’s Design Innovation Printing Team, has been able to finance projects to locally combat the effects of COVID-19.

“I’ve been printing for 7 weeks and have made nearly 500 bands for the face shields now,” says Darwin Boyd, Ph.D., CAE. “I make about 60 shields a week.”

There were several people involved in the design of the band for the face shield, and employees helping print the product, including Mark Ashmore, Lead IT User Support Analyst, CAE. Several students from the college also helped to assemble the face shields.

Face shields were donated to the Kent State University Health Center and Campus Police. Most of the face shields go to Medwish and Medwish distributes them. One hundred face shield went to the City of Kent.

Kevin Pospichel, Senior IT Analyst, College of Architecture and Environmental Design, was involved in the design of the shields. Boyd has been involved with designing and modifying other designs for 3D printed masks.

“I have mostly modified designs to accommodate nasal cannulas, in particular high flow cannulas,” Boyd said. “These masks would be worn by COVID patients while receiving oxygen and would reduce the amount of virus that the patient exhales, thereby reducing the viral load in the room and hopefully improving safety for caregivers.”


I Richmond Nettey

I. Richmond Nettey, Ph.D., associate professor: Nettey was appointed chair of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Standing Committee on Airport Terminals and Ground Access (AV050) at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington, D.C.

Nettey along with 36 other committee members will investigate the planning, design, operation, and maintenance of the airport landside, which encompasses the area between points where passengers and goods enter airports to points, including terminals, where they board and disembark aircraft. The committee is also concerned with the transportation of passengers between their origin or destination, and the airport. Decisions spawned from this collaboration will be used to create safer transportation pathways in the COVID-19 era.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to have a leading role in working with the other appointed members and affiliates,” Nettey says. “They have the opportunity to work with me, as a seasoned aviation professional who’s been in aviation education and professional aviation for more than three decades now, at the helm.”

Nettey said his appointment comes at a time when the world is looking to organizations like the NAS to provide guidance for meeting unprecedented challenges and his committee position gives Kent State an opportunity to have a front seat on important research work in aviation.

“Research work governing the use of airport terminals, governing transportation to the airports — ingress and egress facilities at the airports, especially now that we’ve got such monumental changes coming down the pike, associated with distancing requirements and the introduction of health screenings in addition to security screening at airports,” he said.

As chair, Nettey has already made a potential impact on the American response to COVID-19, as regards to aviation. Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation Committee asked the NAS for COVID-19 response proposals, which could be written into legislation for emergency funding.


Shen Tao

Tao Shen, Ph.D., assistant professor: Shen was called on to help medical experts grappling with millions of COVID-19-affected Americans who are desperate for ways to keep themselves safe while treating patients. With the number of ill citizens climbing, the need to preserve medical staff health is paramount.

Shen was approached by Summa Health System Hospital at Akron to design a device that can be used to more safely obtain nose and throat swabs for COVID-19 testing, minimizing the risk of medical workers’ exposure.

Shen and his mechatronics engineering students quickly generated several potential design concepts.

“We are positioned with both talent and state-of-the art facilities to be a positive force against COVID- 19,” says Christina Bloebaum, Ph.D., dean, CAE. “I’m very proud of our faculty and students who have stepped-up to make a difference.”

Researchers at Summa Health are very interested in a key design. Next steps include fabricating a 3D prototype of the device using CAE laboratories for optimization. Shen and the Ohio-based hospital system are also looking into potential manufacturers to produce the final product. Shen’s patent- pending invention is a self-collected swab.

After a 3D device prototype is created, Shen will send the instrument to Summa Health for further testing and application.

“I feel so honored to have a chance to make some contributions to help the medical heroes in the fight against such a horrific pandemic,” Shen says. “I also feel grateful to have strong support from our college and university for this invention even in a closed-campus situation.

The College of Aeronautics and Engineering is committed to improving lives through research and being part of the COVID-19 eradication solution.