Inspired by Parents, Georgia Tech Student Helps Build Lifesaving Equipment to Battle COVID-19

Mechanical engineering student Kentez Craig grew up in Atlanta with two paramedics as parents. Now he's making equipment to help first respondersin their battle with COVID-19.

You don’t get much more Atlanta than Kentez Craig.

“I grew up just five minutes south of the airport,” said Craig. “My parents were always driving to the local hospital or fire station for work.”

Craig’s parents, Kenneth and Jackie Craig, actually met working together at Grady Hospital, and both have served as first responders across the metro Atlanta area.

“They both worked at Dekalb Fire Rescue for a while. My dad’s currently working as a paramedic in the ER of a local hospital,” Craig said.

After graduating from Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School in Fayetteville, Craig began studying mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech. Now, as he completes his master’s degree, he’s inspired by his parents' hard work in the community: He is part of a team of graduate and Ph.D. students working with Georgia Tech faculty to develop much-needed protective devices for healthcare workers, like his parents.

“Ideally, lives will be saved because of this, and I don’t think there’s a greater thing that we could be doing right now,” he says.

Craig has helped develop face shields and ventilators that have been drawn up and designed with advice from clinicians in hospitals and emergency rooms across Atlanta. And he is currently helping construct a foldable box that serves as a shield to protect healthcare workers while they perform intubations. Intubation is the procedure by which a tube is inserted so a patient can be placed on a ventilator to assist with breathing during an illness like COVID-19.

“Even though the patient is sedated, some of those involuntary reflexes are still there. When they cough, that aerosolizes the virus, putting everyone in the room at risk,” said Craig.

This box structure that Craig and his team have been working on provides an extra layer of protection for doctors and nurses having to perform this procedure, which is especially helpful given the shortage of standard personal protective equipment.

The device also serves another very important purpose.

“It also helps keep their N95 masks cleaner, so they can use them for longer,” he explains.

For more coverage of Georgia Tech’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, please visit our Responding to COVID-19 page.

Craig says this entire experience has made him look around in awe at the people stepping up to the challenge.

“I’m really proud to be a Georgia Tech student,” he says. “It’s been amazing to see how we’ve been able to put our noses to the grindstone and come up with ways to help.”

Even more special for Craig may be how he’s been able to give back to the people closest to him.

“It really feels like I’m helping my parents and my parents' friends,” he explains, “and all the mothers and fathers out there that are in the line of fire and then having to return home to their families and children.”

With that motivation in mind, Craig says he’ll continue putting in 12-hour days developing equipment for area hospitals.

“I’m here because I want to be,” he says. “Being able to be here and work those long hours is definitely worth it.”

This mechanical engineering master's student is working long hours each day to develop new protective devices for healthcare professionals.
This mechanical engineering master's student is working long hours each day to develop new protective devices for healthcare professionals.