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Rapid Response to Acute Humanitarian Crises

Santa Clara University’s School of Engineering has several programs that address humanitarian themes, such as the projects run through Engineers Without Borders and the Frugal Innovation Hub. A new Robotic Systems Laboratory initiative focuses on the use of advanced technologies to address acute humanitarian needs associated with natural and man-made disasters, pandemics, refugee migrations, and the aftermath of regional conflicts.

One of the program’s first projects involved manufacturing key parts of medical face shields for local hospitals. This work was performed by faculty, staff and students, using 17 3D printers and 2 laser cutters in the School’s Maker Lab and an open source design by 3D printer manufacturer Prusa. Partners in this effort included a local community maker group, Maker Nexus, which assembled the shields, and the Valley Medical Center Foundation, which sanitized and distributed shields to local hospitals. In ten weeks we were able to deliver over 13,000 face shield components. In addition to the face shields, we used the scrap material to produce Ear Savers to provide relief from wearing masks with elastic. We are also exploring the manufacture of additional medical products and protective equipment for adoption in the near future.

Another project involved producing test tube holders to assist with Covid-19 testing. We designed prototypes for evaluation to determine the final design. Using 13 3D printers in the School’s , we were able to produce 1,000 holders for the Valley Medical Center Foundation.

We are working with the University Facilities department in order to provide items to help with Covid-19 preparedness on campus. One project is producing catch trays for under hand sanitizer dispensers. We are making the trays using 2 laser cutters and the plastic bender in the School’s . We are also prototyping other projects that can be beneficial to Facilities and the campus.

Face shield parts being printed in Maker Lab

Face shield parts ready for delivery to Maker Nexus

Student removes face shield parts from 3D printer

Student removing face shield parts from 3D printer

3D printers with test tube holders being printed

3D printed test tube holders

Test tube holders packaged for delivery 

Producing catch trays for under dispensers

Heating laser cut catch trays for bending

Catch tray installed with dispenser

Thank you to Gore for loaning a 3D printer to help with these projects.

For questions regarding donations to this program, please contact Mary Coady at

Contact Us

Director: Dr. Chris Kitts

Santa Clara University
School of Engineering
500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053

Sobrato Discovery, Bldg. 402