AUSTIN (KXAN) — Let’s face it, a mask or shield doesn’t always fit our heads exactly how we’d want, especially when circumstances are out of our control.
It’s a reality the dental community faces when wearing their professional gear, like magnifying loupes, while working on patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Standard face shields don’t quite cut it.
“Dentists need an extra layer of protection because they’re in extremely close proximity to the patient and they can’t social distance because of their profession,” sophomore Katelyn Yu said.
She’s one of two Westlake high school students who are creating a solution for them inside their garage.
“With our existing equipment, we’ve been able to pivot really easily to this market,” senior Kevin Yu said.
Siblings Katelyn, 15, and Kevin, 17, started designing and building custom face shields this summer with a 3D printer and CNC machine — all from skills they learned in their school’s robotics program. Their father, a periodontist, inspired them.
“He challenged us to create a product that could fit his [loupes] and we realized that many dentists around Austin were having a similar problem,” Katelyn said.
The pair started the company Custom Medical Shields. Their products are reusable and customized to the customer’s specific eyewear, meant to be durable and be disinfected.
So far they have sold custom face shields in Austin and across the country, supplying to six states so far: Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland, New York, Texas. Their sales have gone beyond the dentist’s office and into the classroom. A parent referred them to the parent-teacher organization at Lake Travis ISD, where they have a contract to supply shields for their teachers.
“It’s very meaningful to us especially because we’re allowing professionals to be protected and it protects their family also,” Katelyn said.
Their business has sold roughly 230 custom face shields. Their profits help them donate to others.
Recently, they donated face shields and PPE to Manos de Cristo at the beginning of October. The organization has a dentist center, education center and food bank — all to help people around Austin.
“They were extremely grateful and we’re also very happy to be able to help them,” Katelyn said. “We find special residence with them because… we can provide safety for them and their patients.”
They hope to donate to nursing homes in the future, while also inspiring other teens to support their community and fight the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s pretty crazy how we can help so much for our community during this time because everyone’s impacted by the pandemic, and we’re doing the most we can to help our community,” Katelyn said.
“The biggest response that we’ve gotten and we love is that they wear it all day, because our goal in this whole thing is to make sure that they stay protected,” Kevin said.
You can learn more about their company and products on their website. Scroll through the slideshow below to see their garage workshop and custom face shields.