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Auburn engineers repurpose CPAP machines into emergency ventilators

By Dawn Azok | April 02, 2020

Auburn University engineers have developed a way to convert CPAP machines into emergency ventilators, a valuable tool in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The design, called RE-INVENT, is one of several efforts at Auburn to aid healthcare workers in Alabama and beyond. Faculty and staff also have produced hand sanitizer and 3D-printed protective face shields to boost a critical shortage of medical supplies.

RE-INVENT is an accessory that would create a functional ventilator from a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine. Such machines are used to help people with obstructive sleep apnea breathe more easily while they sleep.

Tom Burch and Michael Zabala, faculty members in Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, and Hayden Burch, a sophomore in mechanical engineering, initiated the project. They received help from other faculty members, alumni and medical professionals.

“What started as pure intellectual curiosity quickly grew into an emotional race against time to potentially save lives,” Zabala said. “We wanted to know if we could design a solution to solve the ventilator shortage problem.”

Making An Impact

RE-INVENT is efficient and economical, two key considerations for the development team.

The device can be assembled in four hours using about $700 worth of parts in addition to a standard CPAP machine, compared to the typical hospital ventilator price tag of $25,000 or more.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has provided guidance to health care providers that may allow them to use RE-INVENT to help increase the availability of ventilators and other respiratory devices during the pandemic.

The Auburn team is continuing to work on the project and exploring options to share the design with healthcare providers and manufacturers. More info is available here.

“These are difficult times,” Burch said. “Everybody who understands the gravity of the situation wants to do something to help, so it feels good to think you’ve helped with something that may have an impact.”

Auburn engineering faculty and staff also have donated personal protective equipment and supplies to East Alabama Medical Center, including 10 gallons of hand sanitizer mixed in a campus lab and 400 3D-printed protective face shields.

A group of volunteers from engineering, the College of Agriculture and the College of Architecture, Design and Construction has been producing the face shields using a network of on-campus 3D printers.

They plan to keep running the printers around the clock, with the ability to produce about 150 face shields per day.

Click here to read the original article on madeinalabama.com.

Travel center, restaurants coming to Exit 38 in Tuskegee

By John O'Connor | October 23, 2019 at 4:38 PM CDT - Updated October 23 at 7:16 PM

TUSKEGEE, Ala. (WSFA) - There is a major project underway at Exit 38 off of Interstate 85. It’s considered a gateway to the city of Tuskegee.

The project represents around a $20 million investment. Businesses are opening, under construction and on the books for the future.

On Wednesday, there was a ribbon cutting for a new Popeyes restaurant. Across the street a $7 million travel center is under construction.

The travel center will offer several eateries, fuel and the only electric vehicle charging station on that stretch of I-85. The restaurants include Huddle House and Little Caesars.

These two projects will bring in over 125 jobs. It represents a community-wide commitment to economic development.

“Literally in some people’s lifetime they have not seen commerce take place here. We’re at a point now where we have close to $20 million in projects either done, coming out of the ground or in the planning stages," said Macon County Economic Development Authority Director Joe Turnham.

A chicken place and a travel center may not seem like a big deal for a community, but it is.

“This will ad about 20 percent to the coffers of Tuskegee alone. Then you add the school system, the county government, and the economic development authority, this is a huge deal," Turnham said.

For businessman and Tuskegee native Jeff Potter this is personal. He has a history on this spot that has sat dormant for decades.

“Somewhere between [when I was] 8 to 9 years old, my father worked third shift. This was a Chevron site," Potter said. “Only God could take a young man and 50 something years later put you in place to be doing a $7 million project where there was a little kid - I used to be happy every night to come with my father to work.”

It’s a story of what can be for a native son a story of what was meant to be.

“It just shows that a person’s destiny is set long before he gets to where’s he’s going," Potter said.

Copyright 2019 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

Click here to view the article on WSFA.com

Bringing New Life to Macon County

TUSKEGEE, AL. There's a new farm in town, and it's growing organic.

Kai Lee hangs out on a John Deere, overlooking the fields as the summer harvest begins.

Nathan Wells, one of the founders of Lifetime Natural Organic Farms, is a California transplant who's taken with the history and possibilities of Macon County. He has a great respect for the history and accomplishments of George Washington Carver and wanted to honor that. "We came here because we felt that Tuskegee and the history here, with George Washington Carver--that we could be a part of that history and provide another avenue for Tuskegee and their community to have something to be proud of," he said.

Lifetime Natural Organic Farm opened earlier this year in Macon County. As the largest USDA Certified Organic farm in Alabama, they're focused on growing their produce and their presence in the community. "Our goal is to give back to the community," Wells said. "Our goal is to give a living wage to anybody that works for us, including insurance. We're here for the long haul and we want to be a big part of the community. We're excited to be a part of it."

This season's crops will include several varieties of tomatoes, purple and white kohlrabi, cauliflower, Nubian eggplant, Toyha edamame, rainbow chard, and spinach.

The farm uses bio-intensive farming, which is an approach that priorities maximum yields from smaller areas. It also involves monitoring and promoting biodiversity and sustaining the soil's fertility in a natural way. An organic farm like this has been Well's long-time plan. "This is my baby," he said of the farm. "This is my vision, this is my dream, and this is my ministry."

The Macon County Economic Development Association (MCEDA) has also been involved in helping the farm find its footing and grow roots. The Board helped the farm establish itself on MCEDA property, and is hoping to see it grow. Joe Turnham, director, said, "We've always wanted to have an agricultural component to economic developing, and we think it's a great slice of that here." He's also looking forward to seeing the farm's impact on the community. "In addition to environmental practices," he continued, "we're hopeful that a full-scale commercial farm will be like a new industry to Macon county, employing maybe several hundred people and generating a lot of local tax revenue."

All produce is delivered within 48 hours of harvest to ensure maximum freshness, and Lifetime Natural Organic Farm's customer Demand Profile helps eliminate food waste.

Lifetime Natural Organic Farms currently sells its organic produce to premium grocery stores and natural food stores like Whole Foods and Publix, as well as some restaurant chains. To find out more about this exciting new farm, visit their website or find them on Facebook.

By Leigh Daniel

2 new restaurants opening off I-85 in Macon County

SHORTER, Ala. (WSFA) - Travelers between Montgomery and Auburn now have new places to stop and dine along I-85 in Macon County.

Officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Shorter on Wednesday to celebrate the opening of a Burger King and a Popeye’s just off the interstate.

There are five exits off I-85 in Macon County, and Director of the Macon County Economic Development Authority Joe Turnham says the county wants to monetize and develop those exits.

“The same traffic going by EastChase, TigerTown in Opelika, comes through Macon County,” Turnham said. “We have to get in the game in economic development and this is one of the ways we’re doing it.”

This development off Exit 22 is a partnership between the town of Shorter and the franchise owners, Premier Kings of Montgomery, which owns both restaurants.

According to Turnham, the $4 million investment will create around 100 new jobs in the Shorter area.

The project is a culmination of efforts and a lot of planning, including the addition of a sewer system at the exit long before the businesses started opening.

“You have to plan for it. In other words, the town years ago invested in sewer here. If we didn’t have a sewer at this exit, we wouldn’t be having any of this business here," Turnham added.

Dozens of people turned out for the ceremony, including a representative from Sen. Doug Jones’ office.

The restaurants should be open by Thursday.

Click here to view the full WSFA 12 News article.

Contact us

Joe Turnham
608 Dibble Street, Suite 7
Tuskegee, AL 36083