Hokies roll out face shields designed in Virginia Tech’s helmet lab to help curb spread of COVID-19

Spray tests showed the two-part visor blocked more than 99.9 percent of small droplets.

Hokies roll out face shields designed in Virginia Tech’s helmet lab to help curb spread of COVID-19
New helmet shields developed at Virginia Tech. (Source: Virginia Tech Athletics)

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Perhaps now more than ever, college football teams are leaning on the academic side of their institutions to navigate the path to playing games amid a pandemic.

A prime example can be found at Virginia Tech, where Justin Fuente’s squad is sporting new face shields designed by the university’s helmet lab.

“What we came up with we call the double visor solution,” said Dr. Stefan Duma, a Virginia Tech engineering professor and the founding director of Tech’s helmet lab. “You take the one visor and install it above the eyes and we flip another one and trim it so it’s around the bottom, so you basically have a full face shield.”

Duma and his team have worked hand-in-hand with Mike Goforth and Mark Rogers on Virginia Tech’s sports medicine team. The result of their collaboration is a helmet shield that takes 30 minutes to make that’s been found to block more than 99.9 percent of small droplets.

“By itself, it’s not perfect, so we’re not saying this eliminates everything,” Duma said, “but it certainly helps reduce transmission two ways: from one player breathing out and from another player potentially coming back at them.”

The technology is still being perfected.

Tech safety Divine Deablo said, at times, the shield can fog up or make it difficult to breathe, and adjustments are being made on the fly.

“Recently they cut part of the bottom half so it still covers the mouth, but I have more air coming through so I can breathe and it’s a lot better,” the redshirt senior said. “I would advise my teammates and every other team to wear it.”

Duma said his team has shared its design with other organizations, including the National Football League. With nearly all of the research and testing taking place in Blacksburg, he called this the latest example of ingenuity that is unique to Virginia Tech.

“It’s not replicated at many schools, I can tell you that and, again, it requires all partners,” he said. “You’ve got to have the coaches on board, sports medicine and the engineering side, and we’re fortunate to have the biggest helmet lab in the world to be able to rapidly make these things and work together.”

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