MENOMONIE — Jake Thomas is a senior at UW-Stout.  He studies plastics engineering and it became crucial for him to pull off a project that helped the entire campus community.

Jake came up with the idea to create a door-puller for his dad, who works in a school district.

“He saw this door-pulling device online, but it was overly complicated and expensive,” Jake said.  “He knows I have a 3-D printer, so he said ‘hey Jake, could you make me a device that can better suit my needs?”

That’s what Jake did.  He proposed to make a few more for students on campus, pitching the idea to UW Stout’s admissions office.

“We eventually made about 3,000 door-pullers for all the students living in the dorms this year on campus,” Jake said.

What began as a prototype on a computer became a tangible safety tool to prevent catching and spreading COVID-19. 

“We got some of our engineering faculty to make a mold out of aluminum,” Jake said.  “That mold can be filled with melted plastic and then it spits out door-pullers.”

He teamed up with fellow student Deven McCarty, who got on board through Professor Adam Kramschuster.  UW Stout leadership approached Kramschuster, once it became clear the chancellor wanted production on a larger scale.

“They asked how we could manufacture these for the Stout community,” he said.  “They brought me in because it was a plastic part and they know I have a background in manufacturing and we have a really great lab here for that.”

McCarty had already been working on the plastics lab as a research assistant this past summer.  It was a perfect fit.

“It was a really cool project, especially something involving COVID,” he said.  “It let me use my skills that I’ve learned through class to make a product that would help others.”

The team made those 3,000 door-pullers in only one week.  Jake says there are no plans yet to make more, but he’s happy to help stop the spread of the virus in this small way.

“My product can maybe make a tiny little impact on campus in keeping kids safe.”

The project ultimately came to fruition through the Made at UW Stout initiative.  Read about it here. (