Robotics Team Switches Gears, Makes Face Shields for Health Care Workers

NBCUniversal, Inc.

You don't have to be a genius to see the need among health care workers for more Personal Protective Equipment, but some pretty smart kids from a local robotics team have crafted a way to help.

The UC San Diego Medical Center in La Jolla is just one of several hospitals from San Diego to New York that took a robotics team that calls itself "The Clueless" up on their offer to make face shields.

It turns out, The Clueless have a pretty bright idea. 

"We have around three printers actively printing all the time,” one member said.

It’s 3-D printers he’s talking about, and his team has retooled them to make face shields instead of robots. How cool is that?

"They take around two hours, two-and-a-half hours to print two of them,” he said.

Watching "The Clueless" team retool their 3D printers

"I had a 3D printer for a long time but only now have I found a great passion to use it,” Nicholas Liu said.

The Clueless has been able to round up donations and hard to find materials to manufacture 500 face shields and ship them all over the country in just one week.

The team is made up of several Chinese Americans. Team member Emily Tianshi has family and friends near Wuhan, China where the virus originated.

"All of us were pretty touched and all of us have this drive that we want to do something to help the community,” Tianshi said.

Each year the team is tasked with building a smarter, faster robot. Competitions were canceled because of the pandemic this year, and it turns out making face shields needs a more human touch.

"We had to think about using a foam for their forehead,” Tianshi explained. “It is adjustable because everyone has a different size head and they are also quite pretty.”

The COVID-19 crisis isn’t close to being finished, and neither are the Clueless. The team is launching phase two, which is to raise $3,500 and make 500 more face shields.

“This is about our practical application of robotics,” Liu said. “It's about saving lives with our knowledge."

And there’s more. The team is already brainstorming to improve the quality of ventilators used in treating the virus and inventing a touchless door opener.

Now that's using your head.

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