Rowan engineers make intubation boxes for area hospitals

Rowan engineers make intubation boxes for area hospitals


Acting on an urgent request from a Jefferson Washington Township Hospital critical care doctor, a team of Rowan mechanical engineers pooled efforts to build intubation boxes for emergency use at South Jersey hospitals during the COVID-19 crisis.

The team is fulfilling requests from Jefferson Health, Inspira Health and Cooper University Health Care for 32 devices, using an open-source design developed by a doctor in Taiwan. The reusable boxes are made of clear rigid plastic, and act as a mechanical barrier to help shield doctors from infectious bodily fluids as they perform procedures to help severely ill patients breathe. 

See photos.

Described in a recent letter published by the New England Journal of Medicine, such boxes can be cleaned and sanitized for reuse. 

The team included faculty, staff and three graduating seniors who used a Rowan lab to cut and assemble the boxes from large sheets of polycarbonate they bought from a South Jersey supplier. The material was donated by FocalCool, LLC, a South Jersey-based medical device research company, and the team donated the labor and delivery costs.    

“We had the very first unit put together within 24 hours,” said Francis “Mac” Haas, assistant professor in the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering’s Mechanical Engineering Department. 

Haas enlisted help from his students who share an apartment in Glassboro: Joshua Meyer, Kunj Parmar, and Colton Jacobucci. Already exposed to one another and unable to go out due to the pandemic, the students were glad to help.

“We wanted to do something more,” said Meyer. “Dr. Haas knew we were bored and knew we were in the area … we were more than willing.” 

With guidance from Karl Dyer, Rowan technologist, the students created an assembly line to work as quickly as possible. The team is already thinking about ways to design a better, safer intubation box: a stackable version with additional features to reduce exposure.  

Normally, Haas explained, Rowan engineers would design and test a better box before sending their work into the clinical setting, but decided against it, due to the national shortage of personal protective equipment for health care providers.

“It’s just a box, but sometimes, it’s the right thing at the right time,” Haas said. 

"Jefferson Health in New Jersey is so appreciative of the Rowan mechanical engineering team that developed and produced intubation boxes for us in 48 hours and even delivered them to my home," says Dr. Kelly Schiers, a Jefferson Health pulmonologist who made the original request. "They are the most gracious and kind people."