Kelowna hobbyists, manufacturers, librarians and medical students form a life saving alliance - InfoNews

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Kelowna hobbyists, manufacturers, librarians and medical students form a life saving alliance

UBCO’s Cortnee Chulo wears a prototype 3D-printed face shield.
April 26, 2020 - 12:00 PM

When Dallas Rodier realized he had a way to help local healthcare workers get the personal protective equipment needed to stay safe from COVID-19, he jumped into action.

“I knew, with my contacts in the hobby world, there were a lot of people with 3D printers who could help,” Rodier said.,

He found some open-source designs for a 3D printed face shield and took them to Kelowna’s drone making community. He immediately found some people who could start printing and had an inkling there were more. He created a Facebook group looking for volunteers and that led him to more people who had links to greater resources, and more again who were also looking for a way to contribute.  There were people in all corners of the city wanting to chip in and he eventually banded together with Heather Marnier, Cortnee Chulo and Ben Guidolin, and the project gained some heft and became the Okanagan Makers Alliance.

Representing UBC Okanagan, Okanagan College, the Okanagan Regional Library, local businesses, hobbyists and volunteers of varying backgrounds, the alliance came up with a plan to get face shields into the hands of local healthcare workers.

“From there, we’ve basically organized as one factory,” Rodier said.

Their aim is to build 1,750 for hospitals and they’ve so far completed 800.

“We knew that Interior Health was the organization we wanted to donate to, originally,” he said. “And they’ve helped us procure the raw material for us to go forward, but now they’re getting more through their end, with the (traditional) supply chain, which is lessening their need.”

When Interior Health gets its needs met,  they’ll start making headbands for essential service workers, like counsellors and those who work in seniors homes.

The average 3D printer is able print two headbands every two-and-a-half hours, and his group has  20 to 30 machines printing all day long.

The bands hold the clear shields and medical students from UBC Okanagan, who are not going to school, pick up the printed bands on Monday, sanitize them, work the quality control end of things and they’re packaged and delivered from there.

It’s only been two weeks since they’ve really all joined forces and Rodier can’t believe how well everything has come together.

“For me personally, it’s been a roller coaster ride of emotions,” he said. “There are groups all over the world doing similar things, so the raw material we needed has come and gone, so I’ve gone from the highest ups and then lows. It’s been a struggle to get the materials into makers' hands to make these face shields.”

That said, the human aspect of all of this has been amazing to watch fall into place.

“People are stopping everything they’re doing and putting their time and effort into this,” he said. “I’ve had strangers say, ‘hey I have an elastic band and it’s all yours.’”

And then there are the medical students and the companies like formed2Fit, Das Innovations and the Rogerie which have pivoted from their own business plans to throw everything they have into dealing with this health care challenge. Without their help, he said, none of this would have come together.

“It’s amazing how people stepped up,” he said.

And it’s meant a lot. At the beginning, he thought maybe he could make a hundred PPEs. Now, with the combined effort, he’s looking at the completion of thousands.

MakerspaceUBCO is playing a key role in coordinating supplies and in the early manufacturing process. Cortnee Chulo is the facility manager and says this kind of project is exactly why makerspace was created in the first place.

“Our mandate is to connect creators and innovators right here in our community,” Chulo said in a press release that went out last week. “It is incredible to see our mission being fulfilled in a tough situation we never anticipated and in a collaborative way that addresses such a critical need.”

With UBC Okanagan taking such a prominent role, the university’s finance department has created a fund for the alliance so it can keep building shields.

This story was originally published April 21.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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