Some spring courses to center on coronavirus at Cal Poly

Mar 28, 2020

In San Luis Obispo, some Cal Poly professors are using the spring quarter’s curriculum to provide tangible support to doctors and nurses during the pandemic, research the virus, and more—an impromptu study in real-world applications.

As an example, lately we’ve been hearing a lot about ventilators—mechanical breathing machines supporting the sickest of COVID-19 patients.

Cal Poly lecturer Eric Paton said as ventilators experience heavy use, they will start to break down, and in most hospitals there are only a few biotechnical engineers who can sort through the complicated manuals and fix them.

Paton is partnering with a business called iFixit, and his students next quarter will be creating easy-to-read manuals for doctors and nurses to use to repair damaged ventilators.

“I thought, what an excellent opportunity to get all my students involved in something that will have immediate impact,” Paton said.

Associate professor Paul Anderson is focusing the entire quarter on COVID-19 research and observation.

“The information is all out there—people put the raw data out there and we can download it and try to analyze it just like [researchers] would,” Anderson said.

He said he hopes his course will inspire students to pursue the field as professional scientists, and that the students will create accessible information for the general public.

“Instead of just making this information available to scientists—can we put out websites so anyone [with] general science knowledge could read these things?” said Anderson.

Professor Karla Carichner said her students will try to design products intended to help with a wide variety of issues stemming from COVID-19, from mental health in isolation to faster virus testing techniques.

“This is a great way to give them something positive to think about and to work towards,” Carichner said.

Cal Poly’s spring quarter is set to start April 6, and will be taught virtually.