Monday, April 20, 2020 - 09:00 am Categories:

North Dakota Information Technology, EduTech, Gateway to Science and Microsoft Corp., today announced a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Portal, designed to help fill the growing need for PPE throughout the state.

The initiative is supported by a Microsoft Philanthropies Tech Spark grant and involves a coalition of public and private sector partners engaged in supporting 21st century education as part of the state’s K-20W Initiative. Gateway to Science and EduTech worked with those partners to formalize the effort and identify cutting-edge technologies like 3D printers that can be used to create cost-effective, reusable face shields. Vetted by North Dakota’s Department of Health, the face shields will be donated to those in need. The PPE Portal also creates a central hub for identifying broader PPE needs, connecting needs to available resources, and ensuring that PPE being produced meets medical standards.

“As a hands-on, science-focused organization, Gateway to Science saw an opportunity to bring organization, efficiency and effectiveness to the efforts of stakeholders who are finding innovative ways to help fill the need for PPE,” said Executive Director Beth Demke. “With the new portal, we can help connect our medical community and other frontline workers to a network of available resources and help those with the greatest need.”

“As North Dakotans, our desire to help is strong,” said TechSpark Manager Taya Spelhaug. “We have seen this ring true from the vast support of individuals from around the state eager to create their own 3D PPE for medical and frontline communities. We’re thrilled to support Gateway to Science’s effort to embody the North Dakota Smart mentality by harnessing technology and statewide goodwill to serve frontline healthcare professionals and other critical needs areas more efficiently and effectively.”

Individuals and organizations with 3D printers, laser cutters and CNC machines can register on the PPE Portal to help produce face shields or other high-tech solutions to COVID-19. Requests for PPE will be matched with producers in close proximity to increase efficiency in delivering products. Donations, including materials, are also welcome to help cover the cost of supplies.

To date, requests for 174 face shields have been received:

  • Walsh County Health District, Grafton 100 – being fulfilled by three different school districts (Grafton, Minto & Park River);
  • LaMoure County Health Dept. 20 – being fulfilled by the Bismarck Career Academy and Gateway to Science;
  • Lake Region District Health Unit, Devils Lake 10 – being fulfilled by Devils Lake Schools;
  • St. Thomas Fire & Rescue 25 – being fulfilled by St. Thomas Public School Extended School Program;
  • CHI Health at Home, Williston 24 –Williston Public Schools potentially fulfilling.

“Through North Dakota’s strong STEAM ecosystem, we can leverage not only our vast network of committed stakeholders, but the innovative spirit that enables us to make a bigger impact on behalf of our citizens,” said Chief Information Officer Shawn Riley.

EduTech and the K-20W Coalition will help organize technology departments in North Dakota school districts and universities to identify resources and coordinate involvement in the project. Industry partners are also encouraged to participate.

Serving as the central coordinator, Gateway to Science will communicate among all entities, establish production specifications, identify supply and distribution chains, and assist in the development of protocol that complies with health and medical guidelines. Gateway to Science is North Dakota’s hands-on science center, located in Bismarck.