Venting the Virus: Teacher-Husband team invent personal air solution
Aug 26, 2020, 7:21 PM | Updated: Feb 7, 2023, 3:15 pm
BOUNTIFUL, Utah — After a KSL Investigation revealed serious questions about whether public schools in the state are prioritizing proper air ventilation in the fight against COVID-19, one teacher in the Davis School District is taking her health and safety into her own hands.
Mrs. Jamie Meyer, a ninth grade English teacher at North Davis Junior High School, is considered high risk to contract the coronavirus.
“I have asthma and I’ve struggled with breathing problems a lot,” Meyer explained. “I know I’m high risk, but I also know that somebody else’s parent might be, or somebody’s grandma that’s living with them or even the kid themselves.”
She has mixed emotions returning to school.
“I’m nervous for the kids. I’m nervous for their parents. I’m nervous for the community,” she said, adding she remains optimistic. “We can do it. We just have to start thinking outside of the box to be able to think of creative ways to be able to help our kids. That’s my perspective on the whole thing.”
Although Meyer’s been teaching for more than a decade, she said there have been times in 2020 that she cannot help but think about all the uncertainties this school year will bring, especially concerning health and safety.
“Oh my word,” she said. “If I got it, would my family be OK? Would I be able to make it through this?”
Meyer said she can’t let herself think about those things for too long. Her husband, Matt Meyer, is the one who gets to worry about that.
“Protecting her is my inspiration,” he told KSL.
He currently works as a product designer but has a background in the medical field. He was an EMT during the SARS outbreak in 2002.
“I did that for a while. I have a bunch of medical training, so I’m kind of hyperaware of that stuff,” he said. “It was pretty scary, and you know, we got off by the skin of our teeth kind of thing.”
Now, amid the current global pandemic, the couple shares a serious concern about adequate air circulation in classrooms, and Jamie Meyer’s, specifically.
“I’m worried about windows that don’t open, when you have a door closed, the more beings in a room, the more stifled it gets,” she said. “It would be nice to know that there’s more airflow.
It is why her husband spent the summer working in his basement shop designing a personal air filtration solution with the hope of providing an extra level of protection against the coronavirus. With the help of computer software and his 3D printers, the “pAirbolic” was born.
“The air is brought in through a HEPA filter and then in on the inside, there is a UV-C light bulb that the air is drawn in close proximity to that and it, in theory, kills the germs,” Matt Meyer explained.
HEPA stands for “High-Efficiency Particulate Air.” These filters are commonly used in hospitals and remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles.
“The UV light, in theory, is going to capture that other 0.1% of germs, the COVID,” he added.
Think of it, he said, like a personal clean air bubble that circulates a volume of 500 square feet in about 15 minutes.
Since the Davis School District started school on Aug. 25, the prototype has been in Mrs. Meyer’s classroom. Jamie Meyer said her husband forced her to promise to turn it on in class so she’s safe. She agreed.
The Market Cost Of Clean Air
Although the technology behind the pAirbolic isn’t new, options currently on the market are not cheap.
“What we did it condense it into one easy-to-use inexpensive shell,” Matt Meyer said.
With a teacher’s budget in mind, his goal is to raise money to kick start the business process and make things as cost-effective as possible. With the prototype ready to go, the company is looking for investors to help get the product into production.
“We don’t have a whole lot of time to wait. We need to get it to market,” Meyer said. “Certain versions of this are 3D printable, so we can start manufacturing and taking orders right now in theory.”
He hopes to get the purifiers into other classrooms and offices as soon as possible.
“For teachers to think, ‘Hey, there is something there that I can use in my classroom that will protect me and my students,” Jamie Meyer said. “We’re excited about that.”
And, Matt Meyer’s creative process isn’t stopping with the desktop purifier, either. He’s also working on other sizes, including portable battery-operated devices that students can carry and plug into a USB battery source while they are en route to and from school, on a bus or when schooling from home.
For more information about this project, visit pAirbolic.com. If you have any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Davis School District
The Davis School District was one of the first districts in the state to develop a back to school plan. The initial plan called for students to return to the classroom five days a week.
On July 28, the district announced it would follow an alternating day schedule – essentially two days a week in the classroom, and three days online. Administrators pointed to a parent survey that found 45% preferred the blended model.
Among the so-called “Big 5” approach to operating schools while COVID-19 exists in the community, the district is also installing air-filtering systems.
The five aspects are:
- Hygiene Etiquette
- Stay Home When Sick
- Face Covering
- Physical Distancing
- Clean & Disinfect
Back to school guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say very little about a potential super spreader in schools and classrooms: proper air filtration and ventilation.
The CDC’s school guidelines only recommend that ventilation systems “operate properly” and that administrators “increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, for example by opening windows and doors.” However, the CDC instructs they should not be opened if doing so poses a health or safety risk to students.