Across the country, people are finding creative ways to support essential workers during the COVID-19 outbreak. A trio of Elgin Community College faculty, staff, and alums are finding their own ways to do their part.
ECC Gallery Curator Juan Fernandez has put his artistic endeavors on hold and is learning to print masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) on a 3D printer. “My role is to coordinate art experiences for our community. I am also a practicing teacher and artist, in these trying times, I have found this to be a fortunate combination,” Fernandez said. Using a 3D printer purchased with professional development funds from the college, Fernandez has partnered with colleagues to coordinate the production and distribution of emergency personal protection equipment and medical supplies.
ECC Adjunct Art Instructor Eric Fuertes is also the manager of the Columbus Digital Fabrication Studio at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Fuertes is currently streamlining the production of face shield brackets and producing multiple open source N95 ready mask mounted filter housings, flow limiter valves to ventilate more than one patient with a single ventilator, and circuit splitters for patients requiring respiratory therapy or ventilation.
Additionally, ECC alumnus Nate Mathews, Northeastern Illinois University professor of art, is working with colleagues at NEIU to fill an order of face shield brackets for Swedish Hospital Chicago. His family has also been sewing masks for nurses and delivering them across the city.
They are joining others across the nation in using National Institute of Health-approved "last resort" designs to quickly get equipment to people who need them. The mask is an especially innovative design; it can be sanitized with wipes or spray, and the breathing filter can be changed as needed. Common HEPA vacuum filters can be cut to size to insert into the filter frame. The shields use inexpensive plastic report covers that can be discarded after each use.
“We hope to assist in developing, producing, and delivering open-source and specifically requested PPE and “last resort” PPE/medical devices to our front-line medical professionals and essential workforce,” Fernandez added. “We are producing face shield brackets and mask mounted filter housings. The brackets and masks are going to a group that organizes distribution to hospitals, senior living centers, homeless shelters, and emergency medical professionals.”