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COVID 19: University of Lethbridge professors’ 3D-printed masks go beyond city’s borders

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WATCH: University of Lethbridge professors are designing masks for front-line workers in the Lethbridge community, as well as on the Blood Reserve as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on. Emily Olsen reports.

Professors at the U of L are reaching beyond the city limits with their 3D printed creations.

Dr. Craig Coburn from the university’s Geography and Environment Department, and Dr. Majid Mohajerani from the Department of Neuroscience, are both creating masks to benefit the community and beyond.

Coburn explained on Thursday that his initial thought was to send the 20 masks he had already printed to the Blood Reserve.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Lethbridge College offers resources to Canada’s frontline

Last week, he reached out to a former student from the Blood Reserve to make the connection.

“I thought, ‘Well, there’s a community right adjacent to Lethbridge that really is in desperate need of some assistance,'” Coburn said.

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That student, Kevin Black Plume, said the message came as a pleasant surprise, considering the difficulty with which many reserves are accessing PPE.

“For the community to have face masks delivered to them and for them to have them on hand means a lot,” Black Plume said.

The response to Coburn’s offer was immediate.

“His parents picked the first 20 up from my front porch on Saturday,” Coburn said. “The printing rate has gone up so I’ll have 30 or 40 more for them this week.”

In another wing of the campus, Dr. Mohajerani says his design has been tweaked several times to increase the rate of printing and the effectiveness of the mask.

Currently, his team is printing around 20 masks per day, donating them to Lethbridge clinics, grocery stores and the Alzheimer’s Society .

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But, as Mohajerani explains, “even that is enough to protect as much as 100-1,000 people.“

And his designs are reaching farther than just the southern Alberta community.

READ MORE: University of Alberta works with AHS to make 3D-printed face shields

”We have shared the design of mask that we produced in my lab with people around the world,” Mohajerani said.

He says that, to him, this work is a no-brainer.

”We are scientists. Our salary is paid by taxpayers,’ Mohajerani said. “These are the people that work in the community.”

Mohajerani says he and his team are open to new projects and new suggestions for their designs.

Although the combined efforts have only produced a couple hundred masks so far, as Kevin Black Plume says, “These masks can go a long way in just saving someone’s life.”