Student-led project in Sarasota opens door for future germ-free handle adapters

Sarasota County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Health experts recommend opening doors with your forearm, not your hand, to prevent the spread of germs. Armed with that information, Sarasota students interested in STEM have been working to create door handle adaptors that would make doing so more convenient.

The project was conceived and is being carried out by the Student Community Innovation Program at the Suncoast Science Center Faulhaber Fab Lab in Sarasota.

“I thought it would be a great way to help the community during such an important time in history,” said Julian Chauhan, a sophomore at Pineview High School.

Chauhan was one of several students who worked with older mentors on the project over the summer.

Lucas Rodgers, a graduate of Pineview High School, now a mechanical engineering student at Worcester State College in Massachusetts, helped lead the team of younger students.

“It’s been a really interesting process and a good learning process in what materials work and what materials have different strengths and weaknesses,” Rodgers said.

He explains that student volunteers created more than a dozen prototypes with a number of different methods, including 3D printing, injection molding, and various resins, infused with copper powder, which adds an antimicrobial layer to the adapters.

After months of working on their designs and production, students have a handle on the concept that what seem like simple feats of engineering are a lot of work. And, while inspired by the pandemic, the door isn’t going to shut on this project when life returns to normal.

“It’s a very important project to be working on because it does take you well beyond COVID,” said Donna Leigh-Estes, the operations and business development director at the Suncoast Science Center.

She adds that because several of the student volunteers, like Rodgers, are off at college, the Suncoast Science Center is recruiting more students, mentors, and businesses to help with the project. You can learn more at the Suncoast Science Center’s website.

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