By Bryan Hay

The Department of Athletics and Engineering Division huddled together to enhance the safety of Lafayette’s football players as they prepare for their spring season.

Staff at the engineering shop in Acopian Engineering Center produced about 260 face shields that attach to the football helmets and help protect against the spread of respiratory droplets during practice. They’re similar to face shields shop staff made for first responders during the height of the pandemic last year but use thinner material to attach more easily to a football helmet.


Seth Holiday, director of equipment services, displays helmet with face shield

Seth Holiday, director of equipment services, displays helmet with face shield

Earlier this year, John Garrett, head football coach, Matt Bayly, director of sports medicine and head athletic trainer, and Seth Holiday, director of equipment services, began researching best practices for face shields, with particular focus on the work at Virginia Tech, known for conducting helmet safety research for the NFL and NCAA.

“Everyone scrambled to identify an effective barrier, how to source it and, above all, get a rapid turnaround for delivery,” Bayly says. “To no one’s surprise, the Engineering Division said ‘yeah, let’s go.’ ”

“We started with one product, but we really didn’t like them,” Holiday says. “We wanted to make our own. I talked to our coach, got a contact in the Engineering Division, provided blueprints, and went from there. They got it all done by the time students returned in February. They did a great job.”

Marvin Snyder, supervisor of the engineering shop, easily sourced the polycarbonate material, similar to Plexiglas, to make the shields. “Then it was just a matter of taking the design and putting it into a CAD (computer-aided design) drawing and finally on a waterjet for cutting,” he says.

Shaved down to create a smooth, safe edge and easy to clean and sanitize, the shields attach to helmets with clips and zip ties. “It was a little labor intensive, but it worked,” says Holiday, adding that most players appreciate the additional safety measure.

“Most of the guys really like them,” he says. “There were some concerns about visibility. We sprayed the shields down with anti-fogger so they wouldn’t fog up when it was super cold.” 

(Left to right) Jyaire Stevens '23 (LB), Jon Engel '24 (DB) and Brian Reilly '23 (LB)

(Left to right) Jyaire Stevens ’23 (LB), Jon Engel ’24 (DB) and Brian Reilly ’23 (LB) during a recent practice session

Garrett thanked Scott Hummel, William Jeffers Director of the Engineering Division, and Engineering Division staff for providing “an awesome homemade face shield for player safety during this pandemic. It is just another example of our truly remarkable engineering program.

“I think it is pretty cool that our Engineering Division and Lafayette football can collaborate on a project that helps keep our team safe,” he adds. 

Snyder says his first priority is to assist faculty and students on research and design projects, but will offer help wherever possible. Last year, 3D printers from LeopardWorks in Acopian produced disposable stethoscopes and face shields to support local medical professionals working on the front lines of the pandemic. For use on  campus, the engineering shop made protective plastic shields for the bookstore and protective PVC barriers placed between dorm room sinks and bathrooms.

Rob Layng (left), engineering technician, and Marvin Snyder, machine shop supervisor

Rob Layng (left), engineering technician, and Marvin Snyder, machine shop supervisor

“While engineering is a priority, we are happy to help the Lafayette community where we can,” Snyder says.

Bayly said the collaboration between engineering and athletics was yet another illustration of “how integrated our campus is and how it comes together, particularly in times of need. There’s a living concept at Lafayette of we’re all in this together. This place is special because of that.”

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