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Impact - Mask Makers

Tags: Faculty Profile | Staff Profile
Published 07/27/2020

Combining art with safety, ECC trio creates face masks to mitigate spread of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools and businesses across the country, Elgin Community College began to look for innovative ways to support essential workers. A trio of ECC faculty, staff, and alumni found a way to do their part with a little ingenuity and a lot of creativity.

Filling a Need

ECC Gallery Curator Juan Fernandez put his artistic endeavors on hold to produce much-needed masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) on a 3D printer.

“My role at ECC 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.

To help meet the needs of those on the front lines of COVID-19, Fernandez partnered with two ECC colleagues to coordinate the production and distribution of PPE and medical supplies to emergency workers.

Assembling the Team

ECC adjunct art instructor Eric Fuertes, who is also the manager of the Columbus Digital Fabrication Studio at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, worked with Fernandez to streamline the production of N95 filter masks and face shield brackets.  

Additionally, ECC alumnus Nate Mathews, a Northeastern Illinois University professor of art, joined forces with his colleagues at NEIU and his seventeen-year-old nephew, Joey Mathews, to help the effort.  

3D Printing and Distribution

Using 3D printer designs approved by the National Institutes of Health, the team printed and assembled masks that can be sanitized and have replaceable breathing filters.

In between working, teaching, and caring for their families, the team has dedicated time to print and distribute the gear to first responders, health care personnel, and other essential workers, including members of the ECC Police Department. All items were donated free of charge.

Making a Difference

The trio funded most of the production, along with donations from ECC and the community. So far, they have printed and donated over 5,765 different PPE items.


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