Posted: 4/29/20

TAMIU School of Engineering Students, Professor Helping Laredo’s COVID-19 First Responders


Dr. Pablo Arenaz, president
Dr. Pablo Arenaz, TAMIU president  

While much of the COVID-19 pandemic response advises we keep our  social distance, a group of Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) School of  Engineering students and their professor have gone the distance --  creating protective masks, shields and aerosol boxes for Laredo’s frontline  first responders. 

The masks and shields were donated last week for use by the ER doctors in the three Laredo hospitals and both Laredo City and Webb County fire departments.  The aerosol boxes, used to protect responders during intubation procedures, were presented to the Laredo Fire Department Wednesday to be used by department paramedics and local hospitals.

Laredo Fire Department Chief Steve Landin applauded TAMIU’s initiative with the City of Laredo and the Laredo Fire Department. 

“We really appreciate this. It definitely provides another level of protection to our paramedics in the field and to our hospitals,”  Chief Landin said.

City Councilmember Nelly Vielma said she had been impressed by the painstaking work by students with their TAMIU professor. 

“I’ve been impressed by the partnership and innovation in this project…to see the design process change to reflect the need has been inspiring. We really appreciate the University’s partnership on this,” Councilmember Vielma said.

TAMIU president Dr. Pablo Arenaz singled out the efforts of TAMIU School of Engineering assistant professor Dr. Tariq Tashtoush. 

“The University is a proud part of this community and we are honored to be able to help with this response.  We are TAMIU Together, we are Laredo Together. I’m particularly thankful to Dr. Tashtoush, who volunteered for this project and has shown remarkable leadership, providing his students with a valuable learning experience,” Dr. Arenaz said. 

Dr. Tashtoush said he and his students were motivated by the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) equipment for first responders.

“We are thankful for the partnership and we were happy to be able to address this need.  We want to help.  We will never say no to being able to help our first responders and provide them with the protective edge they deserve,” Dr. Tashtoush affirmed.

Tashtoush has been leading the effort this Spring semester with a group of students assisting in 3D printing, design and PPE construction. 

“3D printing is a relatively recent technology and part of additive manufacturing techniques that I teach. It’s known for its rapid manufacturing capability and affordability.  In today’s COVID-19 pandemic response, we’ve found that many frontline first responders don’t have the access to PPE they need.  We decided to step in and assist by using our labs here to design and develop units,” Dr. Tashtoush explained. 

Working with CDC-approved social distancing, the class printed 3D elements using an internally defined template.  Leading the effort and developing an assembly process for face shields, masks and aerosol boxes were School students  Gerardo Landa, Rogelio Hernández Jr., Kevin Alfaro, and Gejendra Sah.

“With the available two 3D printers we have, a complete face mask with filtration cover took 13 hours. Eight face shields took 50 hours. Aerosol Boxes were made using locally available Plexiglass  cut to our design dimensions. We created  eight boxes in about 7-8 hours. Our design, development  and build were done in discussion with hospital ER doctors  and the Fire Department. We’ve created eight  Aerosol Boxes, 12 Face masks, and 40 Face Shields for use by the ER doctors in three Laredo hospitals and both Laredo City and Webb County fire departments. I am appreciative of the insight and support provided by  TAMIU president  Dr. Pablo Arenaz, City Councilwoman. Nelly Vielma  and Laredo Fire Department  Deputy Fire Chief  EMS Services Guillermo Heard, and Laredo Fire Department Captain David Esparza  to discuss our capabilities, material needs, and the project progress,” he explained.  

Tashtoush said the COVID-19 pandemic has provided students with a unique, real-world learning opportunity to see engineering applied.

“This opportunity is a very unique and great approach to show how engineers can help their community in all situations. Our engineering students showed their ability to implement the engineering design knowledge they learned in their classes to produce solutions that meet a need while considering public health, safety, welfare and  global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors. We worked together to solve all challenges and came up with affordable and available alternatives to reach our goal of providing local first responders the equipment they need,” he said. 

Tashtoush said he is hoping to expand the TAMIU School of Engineering initiative to collaborate with others who want to help create much-needed PPE.

“I am trying to coordinate all the efforts in this project, and I have been in touch with Harmony Science Academy teachers and will be reaching out to local businesses willing to 3D print with us in addition to Laredo College, United Independent School District and Laredo ISD. I encourage those interested to contact me at 956.326.2600 or tariq.tashtoush@tamiu.edu,” he concluded.

Just last week, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved and authorized two new Engineering degrees to be offered by TAMIU’s School of Engineering:  a  Bachelor of Science with a major in Petroleum Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering.

To learn more about expanded School of Engineering degrees, call 956.326.2408 or 326.2441, email director, Dr. Guillermo Domínguez, at guillermoc.dominguez@tamiu.edu, or click on  http://www.tamiu.edu/coas/soen

Registration for Maymester, Summer and Fall semesters is currently underway online through Uconnect. For additional information on registration, contact the Office of the Registrar via phone at 956.326.2250, email registrar@tamiu.eduor visit their website at https://www.tamiu.edu/registrar/

As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, TAMIU’s campus is closed to the general public. Online and virtual services at the University continue, practicing all CDC Guidelines on gathering, masking and social distancing and with most staff working remotely.  Office hours are subject to change and it is recommended that phone or email contact be made first to determine the office’s schedule of operation. Entry to campus is only open to students, faculty, staff  and those having legitimate reasons to be on campus.  An online directory is here.

The University’s dedicated COVID-19 website is updated daily and includes information on office schedules and services, an expansive FAQ, quick links, student resources, official information links and much more.

TAMIU presentation to Laredo Fire Department
TAMIU Together 

Accepting Aerosol Boxes created by TAMIU School of Engineering students and their professor are, left to right, Laredo Fire Department Chief Steve Landin, Fire Department Captain David Esparza, TAMIU assistant professor Dr. Tariq Tashtoush, City Councilmember Nelly Vielma, TAMIU president Dr. Pablo Arenaz and Deputy Fire Chief  EMS Services Guillermo Heard.