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Schools boost demand for face shield designed by UW engineers

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A team of UW-Madison engineers and local manufacturers is working together again to improve PPE options for health care workers.

But their new face shield is also in high demand with schools across the country as they get ready to reopen.

In March, the engineers at UW designed the Badger Shield, a face shield to protect frontline workers at local hospitals. They partnered with Midwest Prototyping to manufacture the shields and shared the design online.

Soon, the shields were being made around the world.

"We don't know how many for sure but you know it's in many multiple millions of face shields that were made, kind of off of that Badger Shield effort," said Lennon Rodgers, an engineer at UW-Madison and director of the Grainger Engineering Design Innovation Lab.

UW Health recently asked the engineers to adapt the Badger Shield to meet a new need providers like speech therapists discovered as the pandemic went on.

"They started seeing a need by some of their clinicians to have some level of PPE protection, but for cases where the patient needed to be able to see the clinician's face," Rodgers said.

The engineers spent about a month making tweaks to the design and started taking orders for the Badger Shield+ online.

"That was Friday afternoon, and by Monday, there were over 22,000 unit requests," he told 27 News.

But they weren't all from health care providers. Many came from schools, including 60 in Wisconsin.

"It's really, really neat to see something come out of our area," said Samantha Kubly, district nurse for the School District of Monroe.

Kubly says she was looking for a hybrid mask that would allow students to see educators' faces, especially young learners.

"As you're learning to read, it's important that you can not only read that word in your brain but you can also say that word and articulate it out loud and watching how someone moves their mouth is how they learn to make sound," she said.

Seeing someone's face when they're teaching is also important for special needs students or those who are hard of hearing.

Monroe was one of many schools across 44 states placing an order to keep teachers safe in the classroom as they plan for fall.

With so many signing up in just a few days, Midwest Prototyping is already hard at work to get the Badger Shield+ put the door.

"It's neat to be working on something that just has such quick impact," Rodgers said.

He says the shield could also be used in other workplace settings or even in families, where lip reading is necessary. The team is also developing an attachment air flow system for the shield.

Click here for information on how to order shields.

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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