Kent State’s Design Innovation Initiative Cultivates Creative Partnerships to Battle COVID-19

Members of Kent State University’s Design Innovation Initiative are forging creative collaborations with local and regional organizations and funders as they work toward the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) for first responders battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kent State University’s PPE Team has 81 people who have directly contributed to the project. The Kent State PPE Team’s collaboration partners consist of eight colleges, three campuses and three divisions, as well as 44 student/alumni volunteers and four community members/agencies.

The university’s Design Innovation team has received support from some new partners that have stepped up to provide everything from raw materials to funding to make this unique project possible. Collaborators include the Kent State Police Department, DeWeese Health Center, MedWish International, Burton D. Morgan Foundation and United Way of Portage County.

“This scenario brought a great group of highly motivated and academically diverse individuals together quickly to engage in researching, debating and designing the best ways we could collaboratively help create and provide PPE to our local community,” said J.R. Campbell, executive director of Kent State’s Design Innovation Initiative. “With leadership from our colleges of Public Health; Architecture and Environmental Design; Education, Health and Human Services; Nursing; the Arts; and Communication and Information, members of the Design Innovation team were able to evaluate, prototype and test designs for face shields that resulted in a unique shield design.”

The Design Innovation PPE Team has also been evaluating the performance capabilities of some medical-grade textiles to determine their capacity for utilization as face mask material. The goal is to develop a mask design that will perform at, or nearly at, N95 mask specifications. This will enable the team to create an alternative safe mask option if needed in the future. Research and testing on this part of the project is ongoing.

With philanthropic support from both Burton D. Morgan Foundation and United Way of Portage County, nearly 3,000 shields have been produced and donated to MedWish, which distributed them to public agencies at no cost. To date, recipients have included Case Western Reserve University’s Geriatric Dentistry Mobile Unit, Bhutanese Response Assistance Volunteer Effort (BRAVE), the city of Cleveland, the city of Kent, Police Pictures, Sewa International and Wingspan Care Group. To request supplies through Medwish, visit its website at www.medwish.org.

“Burton D. Morgan Foundation applauds the courage of first responders supporting the health and safety of residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the dedication of innovators who stepped up to address an urgent need by rapidly developing processes for PPE production,” said Deborah Hoover, president and CEO of Burton D. Morgan Foundation. “This grant reflects Morgan Foundation’s concern for our community at this unprecedented time, along with our belief in the power of the entrepreneurial mindset as a set of critical skills that help people be resilient and creative in the face of challenge.”

“United Way of Portage County (UWPC) is pleased to be able to support this vital program to support first responders and frontline workers in the battle to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Bill Childers, president and CEO of United Way of Portage County. “Kent State has been a Campaign Partner with UWPC for 50 years. We are thrilled to support Kent State and the community.”

For more information about Kent State’s Design Innovation Initiative, visit www.kent.edu/designinnovation.

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Image Caption:
Kent State University’s PPE Team has 81 people who have directly contributed to the project. The Kent State PPE Team’s collaboration partners consist of eight colleges, three campuses and three divisions, as well as 44 student/alumni volunteers and four community members/agencies. 

Media Contacts:
J.R. Campbell, jrcamp@kent.edu, 330-672-0192
Eric Mansfield, emansfie@kent.edu, 330-672-2797

POSTED: Wednesday, June 24, 2020 - 9:39am
UPDATED: Wednesday, July 8, 2020 - 2:27pm