By Caitlin Yamamoto | April 21, 2020
Although Wurster Hall is closed, UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design (CED) staff is keeping very busy by working together to help others. From employees at CED’s Fabrication Shop to the Digital Fabrication Lab (DFL), CED’s staff is using teamwork as their strength to contribute to various projects with the ultimate goal of assisting as many people as possible with resources during COVID-19.
Semar Prom, CED’s Director of Fabrication Services, described their multiple endeavors. As a maker space facility, CED’s Fab Lab always has PPE on hand for protective gear to use while working on a project. He mentioned that the Shop and the DFL began working as a team on producing PPE for health workers, such as face shields as designed by Prusa, who is the maker of CED’s 3D printers.
They already had great success, as Prom described, “We donated all of our PPE (nitrile gloves, masks, face shields) to the campus Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) so that they can distribute them to places that need them. We are currently filling an order for the Tang Center.”
CED’s DFL Manager, Chris Palmer, also had his hands on another project involving the medical community. Palmer was contacted by a student from Diablo Valley College (DVC) who had contacts through family with medical professionals. He suggested to Palmer to join the openPAPR project, which involved producing low-cost, battery-powered, air-purified respirators (PAPR). PAPR would provide stronger protection during procedures that can carry higher risks of exposure.
Soon after the proposal, Palmer joined openPAPR, a team consisting of members from the DVC and UC Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) community. Palmer has been using his many years of 3D modeling experience design and protype parts for the PAPR with his 3D printers at home. The project has already been making great strides. “Some prototypes have been delivered to doctors in UCSF for testing,” Palmer added.
From respirators to face masks
Respirators are not the only project CED staff are working on recently. From there, they branched into creating cloth face masks for the Tang Center and other nearby locations. While cloth masks may be not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about digital design, Palmer said his background knowledge and skills have proven useful for this project.
“My skills sewing and serging as a textile artist along with research done by my wife, Stephanie Lie, on face mask designs helped with this project,” Palmer said. Their final face mask design ended up being a unique hybrid between two popular designs. Palmer has already delivered 100 of these face masks to Laura deLeon, a DFL Mechanician, who will work on the second stage of work and complete the finishing touches. From there, deLeon will deliver them to the Tang Center and others.
Going above and beyond
Of course, CED staff do not limit themselves to what one can accomplish at home, the Fabrication Shop, or DFL. For example, despite Wurster Hall being closed, Brooke Marino, CED's Assistant Fabrication Shop Manager, has already accomplished several good deeds.
“Through a local mutual aid network I am matching aid offers and requests as well as working directly with several individuals to get them access to food, personal protective and sanitation supplies, and to navigate basic social services, make phone calls, translate government documents into Spanish, and access legal and tenant rights support,” she added.
Marino listed even more ways in which she tried helping during this pandemic. For another project, she co-designed a logo/graphic art piece for a tenant rights and rent strike committee. Not only that, through a local harm reduction and needle exchange group, she helped various encampments with the packaging and distribution of clean needles, Narcan, personal hygienic supplies, food, and water.
Prom added that even he, himself, is going above and beyond by volunteering his time to other projects as well. “I am currently volunteering once a week with the Basic Needs Security (BNS) group on campus, helping to distribute food to Cal students and staff that are in need of this support,” he mentioned. “We have partnered with BNS on summer design and build projects in the past and I’m grateful to be able to continue assisting them with their work.”
Prom suggested that such helpfulness comes naturally to CED staff. “Being part of the creative/maker community, we are familiar with using our creativity to problem solve. It's quite natural for us to jump up and get to work right away.” Prom recognized that his knowledge and skill set and overall circumstances allowed him to help many people.
He expressed great gratitude in being able to assist in multiple projects and areas of need. “We have a lot of resources and privilege being employed by Cal and we want to share them and support our communities as much as we are able to,” he said.