By Caitlin Yamamoto | April 21, 2020
When the worldwide pandemic COVID-19 caused the Bay Area and the UC Berkeley campus to shelter in place, it became clear that there was an immediate need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). M.S. Architecture students at the College of Environmental Design (CED), Tina Piracci and Dylan Arceneaux, knew right away that they could use their skills and knowledge to help.
“Tina Piracci and I are researchers in additive manufacturing and digital fabrication, so when the pandemic started and we saw all-calls for PPE, it became clear that we could utilize our machines to produce the PPE that is needed,” Arceneaux explained. Together they would become the originators of the CED-founded initiative called C19 BayShield.
A plan was taking shape. There were several 3D printers in the CED studios, some of which belonged to other CED students. With their full support and permission, Piracci and Arceneaux were able to acquire a number of 3D printers and also garner the support and volunteer labor of several more CED students and other UC Berkeley students. In all, the group was able to distribute more than six 3D printers from the CED studios and distribute them to various students’ homes.
Arceneaux described how their previous knowledge shaped their project, “Our design background helped in the 3D modeling of the PPE itself where we made some small adjustments that optimized the print time and maintained safety standards. We sent the model off to Prusa (the organization we received the first model from) for verification. From there we implemented our skills in graphic design and overall project managing to continue moving forward in the most optimal way.”
The C19 BayShield project was initially straightforward. It was to 3D print PPE parts and deliver them to Maker Nexus, which is a non-profit corporation that provides a makerspace that is useful to both new and experienced makers, with the mission “to increase the capacity of individuals in our community to make things… [and to unleash] the innate innovation in people can make their lives better, improve our community, and can even change the world” (https://www.makernexus.com/our-story). In essence, C19 BayShield would deliver the parts to Maker Nexus, who would then deliver the PPE to medical facilities in need. The deliveries to the company’s Sunnyvale, California location helped bridged the gap between the PPE and its production from the makers.
A team effort
One Master of Architecture student, Nathalie Canate, remembers clearly what inspired her to take action in helping the medical community. “At the beginning of this pandemic, I saw videos and was reading articles about the impact of COVID-19 in Italy. The videos were heartbreaking but also a reality check that this is real and that we should stay home to help flatten the curve. The best thing I could do was to stay home and that's what I did,” expressed Canate. However, when another student reached out to her saying she could help produce PPE with available 3D printers, she knew she could make a positive difference through action.
A couple days after that, several students received an email from Arceneaux of C19 BayShield that had specific instructions and links to printing files. “Since then, I have produced a total of 50 masks and am still printing,” said Canate. For her, the goal is “to make the world a slightly safer place and give essential workers – medical practitioners, nurses, support staff – the equipment they need to stay safe from the virus and help others recover.”
Connecting the dots
Another student who joined the cause was Eric Dell’Orco, a second-year Master of Architecture student. “My classmate, Tina Piracci, reached out to me three weeks ago about putting my 3D printer to use,” Dell’Orco said. “I have been able to apply the basic 3D-printing skills I learned during my first year at CED to troubleshoot and optimize print times.” Dell’Orco emphasized that he was “only one of many people volunteering” for the cause.
Someone else who found himself supporting the group endeavor was Professor and Chair of Architecture, Ronald Rael. When discussing the CED graduate students starting the project, he added, “It makes me very proud that they are leading the initiative.” He had a 3D printer at home and wanted “to contribute as much as possible.” Rael’s 10-year-old son, Mattias, who learned to print from a young age, also wanted to help and has been working nonstop printing PPE parts.
“Mattias has been printing seven days a week from morning till night,” Rael pointed out. Every week the CED students pick up what he and his son produced and make deliveries from there. Rael reflected on how his family was just one piece of the terrific puzzle, “It was the students’ initiative to start this project. We’re simply one contributor to a much larger regional effort that grows from the department of architecture.”
After C19 BayShield completed its first delivery, they noticed some difficulties in regard to the management side of things. Arceneaux said that on that drive back to the East Bay from Sunnyvale, “we quickly developed the idea of an emergency resource management app that makers (like ourselves), collection hubs (like Maker Nexus the maker space), and medical facilities that need PPE can utilize.”
They were able to assemble a team of developers, lead by recent UC Berkeley EECS graduate Tina Taleb and members who came from nearby UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco and even from faraway University of Oklahoma and Connecticut College. Before long, a C19 Bay Shield app was born. Presently, a version of the app is being tested internally. However, it will soon be distributed to Maker Nexus, Bay Area medical facilities, and themselves in a pilot program. This app would be a way to essentially connect to the dots between makers, distributers, and those who need the PPE.
Anyone can help
C19 BayShield has already printed and delivered more than 2,500 PPE pieces through Maker Nexus, who in turn has delivered those parts to a dozen medical facilities in the Bay Area. Arceneaux said, “Our current goal is to deploy this app as quickly as possible to maximize its effect across the state, country, and ideally, the world.” However, their philanthropic endeavors cannot go far without the support from donations. C19 BayShield has a GoFundMe page, where anyone can help. As Arceneaux explained, “Donations are what’s keeping the project going right now and how we can pay for the vital resources we need! All donations go into purchasing more materials to continue printing and server space to get the app up and running!”
C19 BayShield GoFundMe Link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/c19-bayshield