Silver linings playbook

DU alumni find resilience—and even hope—in the midst of a pandemic

THE ENTREPRENEUR: Isaiah Silva (BS ’19)

Isaiah Silva, an operations manager in the Innovation Labs at DU’s Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science, is in charge of an effort using DU resources to create polycarbonate face shields to protect people on the front lines fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Using 3D printers and other equipment from the lab, Silva and his team of students and alumni entrepreneurs can create 200 pieces of personal protective equipment every month.

“It was very clear that this is something that needed to happen,” Silva says. “It’s a really terrible event that’s happening. But at the same time, I see this as being something that creates a lot of good.”

Silva first got to work in April, using personal equipment from his startup company, Atomata. “Now,” he says, “DU is leveraging our resources, and I’m able to do way more than I ever could [on my own].” Silva and his colleagues are distributing shields to the “second responders” staffing nursing homes. DU’s Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging has helped identify recipients who need the protection most.

DU faculty members Michael Caston and Kerstin Haring have facilitated the use of the University’s 3D printers, which have been instrumental in growing the effort as the pandemic stretches on.

“There’s some talk of a second wave or even a third wave this fall or winter,” Caston says. “I think the innovation lab is prepared to at least serve the DU community in terms of needs of PPE production.”

Also leading the charge are several DU students, as well as alumni Jacob Goldman and Rob Paddock, who are using the equipment from their startup company, Ahead Wind, to expedite production.

“It’s really just a matter of digging in and identifying what you can do,” Silva says. “For us, I know that we are exceptional at prototyping and rapid manufacturing. It’s awesome that we’re in a position where it’s not just DU persisting at a time like this, it’s all the universities.”

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