The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Protecting those who protect us

Murray Hall BeAM makerspace

UNC PPE Maker Initiative

COVID-19 is causing shortages in personal protective equipment for health care workers who are treating sick patients. UNC-Chapel Hill faculty, medical students and the BeAM makerspaces – along with universities and other industry partners across the state – have joined together with a singular focus: to protect the health care workers who protect us.


Our goal is to make tens of thousands of medical face shields by the end of April, 2020. Together, we are working to contribute to the University community’s response to support those on the front line who are battling this global pandemic.

Our Carolina Team

The UNC PPE Maker Initiative is led by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Be a Maker (BeAM) network via a partnership with several schools and departments at the University

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Learn More

There's work to be done

BeAM and UNC medical students design and produce face shields for health care workers


What are we making?
We’ve activated makerspaces at UNC-Chapel Hill, scientific expertise from peer universities, and external industry partnerships to design and assemble auxiliary face shields for health care professionals who working to care for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients. These face shields are essential equipment that protect the facial areas (eyes, nose, mouth) of medical professionals from splashes, sprays and spatter of body fluids. With physical production beginning the week of March 30, we will produce tens of thousands of face shields in four weeks. These face shields will be used on an auxiliary basis, and only when approved PPE is no longer available. BeAM believes that its shields, if used, can be reused many times with proper disinfection.

What materials are used to make the face shields?
The shield is comprised of several components. A clear plastic visor sits in front of the face. The visor is held in place by a piece of foam that presses against the forehead and a strap made of elastic or a braided webbing material that stretches behind the head. 

Who designed the face shield?
The face shield design was led by UNC-Chapel Hill faculty Rich Superfine, Glenn Walters and Theo Dingemans in consultation with colleagues at NC State University and Duke University. All parts were designed and specified by the UNC BeAM team.

Where do you get your materials?
All materials for the face shields are sourced from external vendors. Based on the designs and specifications set by the UNC BeAM team, external companies produce and deliver the parts to the BeAM makerspace for assembly and delivery to health care organizations.

How was the design tested?
The BeAM team fabricated and sent numerous face shields to four different units at UNC Hospitals for testing. This allowed for four different types of health care workers to test the shields. Medical school students collected user feedback and delivered it to the design team, including Glenn Walters and Theo Dingemans, who used the input to finalize the design.

Who assembles the shields?
Volunteers are working on both materials processing (Murray Hall makerspace) and assembly operations. They were selected for service based on a score generated from a detailed survey they completed. Volunteers include faculty, staff, administrators and students.

What is your assembly process?
Materials for 50 shields are placed in a box in in the Murray Hall makerspace by five BeAM staff and volunteers. These boxes with materials are then moved to the atrium area adjacent to the Murray Hall makerspace and into the Kenan Science Library. This is where 10 volunteers work in shifts to assemble the face shields. Volunteers receive a standard operating procedure sheet with assembly instructions. A completed box contains 50 shields.

How are you keeping assembly workspaces safe?

Our team of UNC medical school students, who are also employees of BeAM, greet volunteers in groups of five when they arrive at the makerspace for their shifts. The medical students provide 30-minute orientation trainings to each five-person group of volunteers (10 volunteers work at a time) prior to each shift. Everyone in the space wears masks, follows a strict hygiene protocol and maintains at least six feet of distance. All spaces are disinfected daily.

Who can buy the face shields?

BeAM@UNC is not selling PPE and will not distribute it on an individual basis. The face shields will be donated to UNC Hospitals or other health care organizations in need.   

Is open-source PPE safe?

BeAM@UNC is taking great care to collaborate with health care professionals and other makers to develop these items; however these items have not been tested or approved for medical use by any relevant authorities. BeAM makes no guarantees that these masks will prevent transmission of COVID-19. Please continue to adhere to current CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19 and use open source PPE at your own risk. Read: more info on Open Source COVID-19 Medical Supplies

Faculty and Staff Leaders


Richard Superfine

Taylor-Williams Distinguished Professor, UNC Department of Physics and Astronomy; Professor, UNC Department of Applied Physical Sciences; Faculty Director, BeAM Maker Network​

Associate Vice Chancellor of Innovation Strategy and  Programs

Michelle Bolas

Associate Vice Chancellor for Innovation Strategy and Programs, Innovate Carolina


Glenn Walters

Research Associate Professor, UNC Department of Applied Physical Sciences; Director, BeAM Design Center


Theo Dingemans

Professor, UNC Department of Applied Physical Sciences


Kenny Langley

Director, UNC Be A Maker (BeAM)


Cindy Reifsnider

Director of Research and Impact, Innovate Carolina

Student Leaders


Demi Canoutas

Doctoral student, UNC School of Medicine


Alex Gertner

Doctoral student, UNC School of Medicine and UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health


Alex Gregor

Doctoral student, UNC School of Medicine


Ryan Searcy

Doctoral student, UNC School of Medicine


Kalleen Kelley

Undergraduate student, psychology and neuroscience


Olivia Burston

Undergraduate student, biomedical and health science engineering


Ana Carvallo

Undergraduate student, physics and mathematics