CSCC masks

Shown here is Cleveland State Community College Mechatronics Instructor Chris Jones standing with one of his custom-made medical shields and his 3-D printing machine in his home.

In mid-March, as the world began settling into the reality of the coronavirus, Cleveland State Community College was responding.

Classes shifted online and students without reliable internet were told they could complete their coursework at a later time.

With all of this adjustment at the college, Dr. Patti Weaver, vice president of Workforce and Economic Development, was concerned for her local community. And when she learned of a problem affecting the medical community, she knew Cleveland State was equipped to pitch in.

Hospitals were in desperate need of face shields to protect doctors, nurses and other staff from the coronavirus and Weaver called Chris Jones, Mechatronics instructor at Cleveland State Community College’s Advanced Technologies Institute at the college’s main campus in Cleveland, as well as the Monroe County Center in Vonore.

Jones would be able to help by using 3-D printers to produce parts for medical masks to reduce the risk of passing COVID-19.

“When Dr. Weaver approached me about the possibility of printing medical equipment, I was all in,” said Jones. “These are very tough times right now and we need to find ways to innovate so we can help in any way we can.”

For Jones, innovation is a way of life. A 1989 Polk County High School graduate, he earned a Physical Education degree from Hiwassee College. After this, Jones reinvented himself by serving in the US Navy for four years and the Tennessee National Air Guard for nine years. While in the Navy, he worked in avionics, learning the highly specialized world of instrumentation, radio and navigation.

Afterward, he continued to grow. Once out of the Navy, his love of Mechatronics soared when he was hired by Siemens and ABT. There, he helped build, ship and install high-tech cancer-treating equipment around the globe.

When he became a victim of layoffs, Jones reinvented himself again. He began teaching Mechatronics at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Polk County before joining CSCC and the Advanced Technologies Institute.

From Weaver’s perspective, Jones’ skill and love of the local community were the perfect match for these specialty medical masks.

“Chris truly rose to the occasion,” Weaver said. “His community-first spirit came shining through as he wanted to give back during these difficult times. It’s great to work with faculty who show such creativity and interest in helping our communities.”

Jones began his work by finding an Italian company online that had designs for 3-D parts for respirators, ventilators and other medical equipment. He studied the designs and determined what made them functional. He would then chose one for the headbands that could hold the medical shield in place.

He still needed to make those shields.From laminating paper to plastic cover sheets, Jones tried different materials to serve as the shield for the masks. In the end, it would be projector sheets used in the old overhead projectors used in classroom years ago that would work the best.

So, by using his own personal 3-D printer at home and two at Cleveland State Community College’s Monroe County Center to produce the headbands, he used some ingenuity in making the hand-designed sheets for shields.

Now, Jones and CSCC were on their way to making a difference.

So far, Jones has created 30 masks to be shared with medical facilities in Southeast Tennessee, including Tennova Healthcare facilities. But, he isn’t looking for credit.

“I’m not doing anything special,” he said. “The printer did all the work. And I’ll keep going until we run out of material, I’m told that we can’t leave the house, or this is over.”

While Jones insists he’s nothing special, others disagree.

“We see many colleges and universities across the state pitching in to provide needed equipment to help those fighting the COVID-19 virus and I’m very proud of Jones and the rest of our faculty for their ingenuity and dedication to help during this crisis,” said Dr. Bill Seymour, president of Cleveland State. “This is yet another great example of Cleveland State putting community first.”

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