TORONTO -- A Toronto student is part of a team at Rice University in Texas racing against the clock to build an inexpensive and easily replicated ventilator to be used for COVID-19 patients.

Thomas Herring, 22, is the only student on the team. He grew up in Toronto, where he developed his love of robotics.

“A lot of the skills that I had to use to build this and to get it to work so quickly, I had already had lots of experience with through my efforts with First Robotics and specifically through Crescent School,” he said.

High-quality ventilators like those used in hospitals use can cost about $10,000. The device Herring and his colleagues have created could cost under $300s, using 3D-printed parts.

Herring calls it “a low cost ventilator for mass distribution.”

It’s basically a bag-type mask a person has to squeeze rhythmically to keep the patient breathing. These bag masks are abundant in hospitals, but they require a person to keep squeezing it.

The engineers at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen have automated the bag. A set of rollers and arms squeeze the bag to pump air into a patient’s lungs.

Herring says it’s not as sophisticated as a hospital-grade ventilator but it can be used for intermediate ventilation assistance.

Herring calls his experience working with Rice University as “unique.”

“This was a unique opportunity to be able to use some of the skills that I’ve learned to build something for the greater good.”

The device is being tested this week and production could roll out as early as next week.

The team is hoping for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to be given in a matter of hours, rather than the usual days and months. More than 40 countries have already expressed an interest in the device and Herring hopes Canada will also be able to use it to help patients.