Vanderbilt engineers continue work on ventilators to prepare for worst-case COVID-19 scenario

Coronavirus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center tell News 2 that as the economy reopens, COVID-19 cases may increase.

While there are no definitive outcomes, ongoing collaborations to prepare for worst-case scenarios have continued.

“As Tennessee starts to open back up we don’t know what’s going to happen with this virus, so we need to have these on hands, just in case,” said Robert Webster, a Vanderbilt professor of mechanical engineering.

For the past month, Robert Webster, Kevin Galloway and Joshua Gafford have been creating additional backup ventilators.

“…a month ago we thought it was a real possibility we would get overrun with patients to the point where we ran out of ventilators,” said Webster.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center tells News 2 that they are nowhere close to facing a ventilator shortage that would put them having to rely on the engineering work.

Still, the project engineers tell News 2 that 20 backup ventilators are completely ready and there are supplies on standby for 80 more.

Webster added, “We hope they’re never needed.”

The engineers shared that their design focused on simplicity.

“What would somebody from Nashville to Nepal have available to them to put this together,” said Galloway.

The ventilators using materials that one may have in their own garage: plywood, sensors, pool noodles, and windshield wiper motors.

The design has been given a seal of approval by Vanderbilt doctors who helped collaborate.

“Having the doctors involved on the team with the engineers on a daily basis is what let us turn the switch, from nothing …to a real product in five weeks,” said Webster.

Gafford shared, “We anticipate these devices could potentially support patients for weeks on end.”

Gafford, a postdoctoral fellow in mechanical engineer, continued with saying, “It’s outside my normal realm of work and research, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help out.”

“The goal is also to share this recipe so other people can look at this and put this together,” said Galloway

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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