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Intern opportunities lead to pandemic prevention

Everyone knows supplies are short and in desperate demand during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, one intern at TechPort is working to help meet these needs.

Alec Dobbins, a 19-year-old TechPort intern, is a student at the College of Southern Maryland, looking to pursue a degree in engineering, according to a release sent from TechPort in California.

Dobbins started this as a test project to see if printing 3D masks were possible, but this test has quickly grown, according to the release. Using a Markforged 3D Printer, Dobbins was able to create a 3D mask frame using minimal materials in a short amount of time.

When you take this frame, add a high-grade cleaning cloth, and secure with a rubber strap, a medical safety mask is created. A single mask frame was taking about 1.5 hours to prepare, which is a relatively short period of time when considering the demand during this pandemic. However, his newest design only takes 28 minutes to create.

Although this started as a test endeavor, a governmental liaison has already made inquiries on behalf of medical facilities’ interests. Dobbins printed the prototype on March 19 and is currently working on producing more demonstration models. While this may only be a basic version and not rated for hospital use, this structure could be easily modified and adapted to meet high-grade medical standards, according to the release.

Dobbins stated that he was thankful for this opportunity at TechPort where he is allowed to expand his knowledge and skills.

“This is an amazing experience and I’m glad I get to help my community in times of hardship,” Dobbins said in the release.

Tommy Luginbill, TechPort director, expressed how proud he was of the interns’ initiative towards the current global problem.

“Our student interns are approaching the world in a unique way,” Luginbill said in the release. “They saw a problem and rather than feeling hopeless, they took decisive action. I encourage all of us to do the same.”

TechPort, operated under contract by the University of Maryland, is the incubator that has allowed the creation of this alternative method to assist in this pandemic. TechPort is a technological incubator that targets startup and early-stage companies in unmanned and autonomous systems and commercialization of Navy technology. The incubator offers many services, such as developmental space, general machine shop, and high-quality 3D printers. The recent addition of intern opportunities at TechPort has allowed this innovation to be created.

A future project at TechPort may include exploring 3D printing high-quality air filters to complete the masks.

For updates on these projects and more, visit the website or follow our social media at @TechPortUMD.

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