Mechatronics Helping In COVID-19 Fight

Mechatronics Helping In COVID-19 Fight

Thursday, April 9, 2020 12:00 AM
Community, Employees, Cooperative Education, Alumni, Press Releases, Academics, TBR

In mid-March, as the world began settling into the reality of COVID-19, Cleveland State Community College was already responding. Classes shifted online and students without reliable internet were told they could complete their coursework at a later time.

With all of this adjustment at the college, Dr. Patty Weaver, Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development, was concerned for her local community. And when she learned of a problem affecting the medical community, she knew Cleveland State was equipped to pitch in.

Hospitals were in desperate need of face shields to protect doctors, nurses, and other staff from the Coronavirus. Dr. Weaver knew who to call: Chris Jones, Mechatronics Instructor at Cleveland State Community College’s Advanced Technologies Institute at the college’s main campus in Cleveland, as well as the Monroe County Center in Vonore.

How would Jones help solve the problem? By using 3-D printers to produce parts for medical masks to reduce the risk of passing COVID-19.

“When Dr. Weaver approached me about the possibility of printing medical equipment, I was all in,” said Jones. “These are very tough times right now and we need to find ways to innovate so we can help in any way we can.”

For Jones, innovation is a way of life. A 1989 Polk County High School graduate, he earned a Physical Education degree from Hiwassee College. After this, Jones reinvented himself by serving in the US Navy for four years and the TN National Air Guard for nine years. While in the Navy, he worked in avionics, learning the highly specialized world of instrumentation, radio, and navigation.

Afterward, he continued to grow. Once out of the Navy, his love of Mechatronics soared when he was hired by Siemens and ABT. There, he helped build, ship, and install high-tech cancer-treating equipment around the globe. When he became a victim of layoffs, Jones reinvented himself again. He began teaching Mechatronics at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Polk County before joining CSCC and the Advanced Technologies Institute.

From Dr. Weaver’s perspective, Jones’ skill and love of the local community were the perfect match for these specialty medical masks.

“Chris truly rose to the occasion,” Dr Weaver said. “His community-first spirit came shining through as he wanted to give back during these difficult times. It’s great to work with faculty who show such creativity and interest in helping our communities.”

Jones began his work by finding an Italian company online that had designs for 3-D parts for respirators, ventilators, and other medical equipment. He studied the designs and determined what made them functional. He would then choose one for the headbands that could hold the medical shield in place.

Of course, he still needed to make those shields.

From laminating paper to plastic cover sheets, Jones tried different materials to serve as the shield for the masks. In the end, it would be projector sheets used in the old overhead projectors used in classroom years ago that would work the best. So, by using his own personal 3-D printer at home and two at Cleveland State Community College’s Monroe County Center to produce the headbands, he used some ingenuity in making the hand-designed sheets for shields. Now, Jones and CSCC were on their way to making a difference.

So far, Jones has created thirty masks to be shared with medical facilities in Southeast Tennessee, including Tennova Healthcare facilities. But, he isn’t looking for credit.

“I’m not doing anything special,” he said. “The printer did all the work. And I’ll keep going until we run out of material, I’m told that we can’t leave the house, or until this is whole thing is over.”

While Jones insists he’s nothing special, others disagree.

“We see many colleges and universities across the state pitching in to provide needed equipment to help those fighting the COVID19 virus, and I'm very proud of Jones and the rest of our faculty for their ingenuity and dedication to help during this crisis,” said Dr. Bill Seymour, President of Cleveland State. “This is yet another great example of Cleveland State putting community first.”

To learn more about the latest Coronavirus-related updates impacting Cleveland State, contact CSCC Director of Communication and Marketing Don Foley at 423.473.2341 or

Students are currently enrolled online through the CSCC main campus in Cleveland, Tennessee, as well as CSCC’s Athens Center in Athens, Tennessee and Monroe County Center in Vonore, Tennessee.

CSCC is the College System of Tennessee’s reigning College of the Year. CSCC directly serves Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, and Polk Counties in Tennessee. The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving more than 110,000 students.


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