KLS Students Help Prevent Covid-19 Spread with 3D Printers

Door handle device created by a 3D printer.
Emily Storms

Khan Lab School's learning spaces underwent some major changes this summer in response to the pandemic. Touchless hand sanitizer stations, touchless faucets, touchless soap dispensers, touchless paper towel dispensers, and no-touch garbage cans were all added to the school building. Do you sense a theme there? The CDC recommends minimizing high-touch areas to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and we're doing our best not to touch anything at KLS! Well, at least not anything anyone else will also touch.

KLS Head of Operations & Technology (aka our resident superhero) Chi-Ray Chien oversaw all these critical building updates, but door handles were a dilemma that was hard to solve. The problem: To move through the building, people would have to grip and pull door handles that others had handled recently. Even with hand sanitizer stations everywhere, this increased the chance of Covid-19 spread.

Chi-Ray was on the hunt for a cost-effective solution to the door handle dilemma when two KLS Upper School students asked him if there was anything they could do to help prepare the campus to reopen safely. Nick and Robert, cousins who had experience using the KLS 3D printer through our Robotics program, had just finished a project using two of the school's 3D printers to make face shields for hospitals

Chi-Ray told Nick and Robert about the door handle dilemma, and together they came up with the idea of 3D printing sanitary door levers that could attach to the unique shape of the KLS door handles. These levers would allow the doors to be opened with elbows, minimizing the need for people to grip the handles with germy hands.

Since KLS uses a project-based learning approach to education, Nick and Robert were familiar with solving real problems and got right to work. They already had the 3D printer set up in their grandmother's house from their previous project. They orchestrated a contactless pickup of a KLS door handle and created a prototype door to test the 3D-printed levers.

KLS has unique industrial door handles, so Nick and Robert needed to design the lever themselves. They went through multiple renditions, tweaking the design to make it more comfortable on the user's arms and more efficient to create.

Now, Chi-Ray has already installed the sanitary door levers on the main doors into suites and the teachers' lounge. He'll continue to install more over the next month. Thank you to Nick and Robert for this creative approach to solving our door dilemma. We love seeing KLS students' innovation in action! 

P.S. In case you missed it, our school's waiver was approved by Santa Clara County last week! Independence Level 1, our youngest learners, will return to campus and see these door levers for themselves next Monday, September 14, 2020. All other levels will remain in remote instruction for now. For Covid-19 Resources + Updates, visit this page.

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