Donated face shields help protect student health, keep labs open

Prent Corp. provides 3,000 for use in variety of courses, majors
A student wearing a Prent Corp.-donated face shield, along with a face mask and safety glasses, works in the woods lab in Jarvis Hall Tech Wing.
​Jerry Poling | October 29, 2020

From biology to art, technology to engineering and more, the lights are still on at the labs that help make University of Wisconsin-Stout the state’s polytechnic leader.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to socially-distanced classrooms, hybrid classes and other campuswide safety precautions. Despite the challenges, many students still have been able to experience lab-based applied learning.

A donation has helped make it possible. Prent Corp. of Janesville donated 3,000 plastic face shields for lab use. The shields attach around the forehead and cover the entire face.

The plastic thermoforming company, with its sister company GOEX, began making face shields in the spring when the pandemic hit, donating tens of thousands of them to health care and other essential workers.

The Prent face shield design.
The design of the Prent Corp. face shield.

The late summer donation to UW-Stout was coordinated through Michelle Dingwall, Stout University Foundation Development Officer. The Prent CEO is Joe Pregont, a 1981 UW-Stout graduate.

“We absolutely would not be able to hold a meaningful laboratory experience without those face shields,” said Professor Jennifer Grant, noting that lab work sometimes requires people to be closer than six feet apart for short periods.

Human Biology, a general education class taught by Grant, has 24 students; lab time in Jarvis Hall Science Wing is limited to 12 students.

“Students use the face shields often and appropriately to ask for help with the microscopes and other experiments,” Grant said. “The design is very clever. I personally find them very comfortable.”

Students make observations from histology slides and organ specimens. They also perform weekly experiments; recently they determined blood types from samples.

 

Erin Hongerholt, wearing one of 3,000 face shields donated to UW-Stout by Prent Corp., works at a microscope during her Human Biology course lab in Jarvis Hall Science Wing.
Erin Hongerholt, wearing one of 3,000 face shields donated to UW-Stout by Prent Corp., works at a microscope during her Human Biology course lab in Jarvis Hall.

Students gear up

Students like Erin Hongerholt also wear face masks under the shields and, when working with chemicals, safety glasses as well. She wears prescription glasses too, giving her four face coverings at times.

All of that can cause some fogging, she said, but she’s dealing with it.

“I like that we can still go to labs. It never hurts to be too careful,” said Hongerholt, a first-year student from St. Charles, Minn., who is majoring in entertainment design.

In the Jarvis Hall Tech Wing woods lab, Professor Jerry Johnson requires masks, shields and safety glasses, the latter because of the heavy machinery being used and because lab work sometimes requires close contact.

Like in Grant’s biology course, the woods lab is being used this semester by students from a variety of majors.

 

Ethan Foss
Ethan Foss

“I get very warm and uncomfortable when wearing all of that on my face,” said Ethan Foss, of Appleton, a senior in engineering technology.

Foss said Johnson is “doing a great job at keeping us at a safe distance” with half the class in the lab at one time and the other half in the classroom.

“Professor Johnson also does his best at using Microsoft teams when he wants to talk to all 24 students. Also, we wipe down our area when we arrive with sanitizing spray and wipe it down before we leave,” Foss said.

Ann Parsons, interim associate dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Management, said the “shields provide, it is thought, some additional protection. They are meant for short periods of time when six feet of distancing impacts student learning,” Parsons said.

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