FAIRFIELD—Fairfield University student volunteers celebrated the 50-day milestone of their community outreach project last week by announcing the donation of their 1,000th piece of custom-designed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). More than halfway to their GoFundMe page fundraising goal, they hope to continue production through the summer.
Although the spring semester has ended — and two of the student volunteers are now officially Stag alumni — the 3D-printed face shield project at Fairfield University shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, things are so busy that another engineering student has joined the effort, Tom Nguyen ’21.
For the foreseeable future, Nguyen, along with nursing major Caroline Smith ’21 and engineers Evan Fair ’22, Lilliana Delmonico ’20, and Andrew (Drew) Jobson ’20 have “essentially converted the School of Engineering’s labs into a production manufacturing floor,” according to Shahrokh Etemad, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department.
While Smith continues to work remotely from home for now, the others can be found in the Bannow Science Center, producing, sterilizing, packaging, and shipping their custom-designed PPE to organizations and health care facilities — primarily throughout the tri-state region and Massachusetts, although they just received a request from California. At press time, the group reports that they have donated 1,521 face shields to 53 organizations. To date, the majority of deliveries have gone to hospitals, nursing homes, and eye doctors.
But as communities begin to slowly re-open in phases, new orders for PPE are coming in from other businesses and community members. The team recently fulfilled a request from the Diocese of Bridgeport for 100 face shields, in anticipation of the Church’s plan to resume the celebration of in-person Masses, the distribution of the Eucharist, and visits to the infirm. They’ve also sent shipments to fire departments, dental offices, independent home health care aides, the Boys and Girls Club, an elementary school, and even Fairfield’s own Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies.
Dr. Etemad credits the ongoing support of the Bannow-Larson Foundation and the Earl W. & Hildagunda A. Brinkman Private Charitable Foundation for helping to provide the Fairfield volunteers with “state-of-the-art labs that train our students and equip them to help the society.” With the addition of three new 3D-printers — bringing the total number to 11, round-the clock face shield production rates have effectively doubled since the first weeks of the project, and the team is looking at possibly expanding their offerings to include 3D-printed ventilator parts and other health-related essentials.
The students remain awed by the support their initiative has received. “We want to thank everyone who has been supportive of our project,” said Smith. “I cannot thank Fairfield University enough for the support, and we are all grateful for this opportunity to make a difference in our community while remaining true to our Jesuit identity and our mission of service to humanity.”
In addition to money raised through their GoFundMe page, Smith said that donations of equipment and supplies have been “tremendously helpful.” A local company, InLine Plastics, has begun an ongoing donation of clear plastic sheets for shield material, with 600 sheets donated so far and more on the way. Fairfield Prep’s Science Department has loaned the team a pair of UV (ultraviolet) chambers with biocidal lamps, to ensure that all components of the face shields are free of biological contaminates prior to shipping.
Smith noted that now that they’ve established successful processes, the Fairfield team would love to expand their reach by helping anyone with a 3D printer — at home, school, or work — to start their own PPE project. “We are in the process of potentially partnering with other resources within Connecticut,” she said.
“One of the things I realized throughout this project,” added Delmonico, “is that it is a very accurate representation of the engineering process. From the research and design, to manufacturing and packaging, to promotions and marketing, we have really done it all.”
In addition to the Fairfield University 3D PPE Project’s GoFundMe page, donations can also be made by Venmo to @lilydelmonico. Inquiries regarding partnerships and requests for face shields can be made by email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.