Freshman Louie Beardell buckled down over Spring Break with the goal of crafting a few hundred face shields for area healthcare professionals as the COVID-19 pandemic surged. On Wednesday, May 27, he crafted his 1,000th face shield, thanks, in part, to an anonymous EA donor.
"It felt like an overwhelming relief that we reached our initial goal and have helped and met with so many amazing people along the way," shared Louie. "It feels truly amazing to speak with all of the frontline healthcare workers individually and hear their story about fighting COVID-19 in their unique way."
After settling on an initial design in mid-March, Louie qot to work gathering sought-after supplies and using his own 3D printer.
"My biggest challenge was that throughout the entire project, the printers needed constant maintenance and repair. Figuring out and solving each unique problem was a daily occurrence," explained Louie. "My biggest success was streamlining the 3D printing process by investing in and installing BuildTAK printing surfaces to all the printers. This saved material, print time and labor. By using these surfaces, we saved about 30% of the filament we were previously using per shield."
Health care professionals at the University of Pennsylvania, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Main Line Health, Chestnut Hill Hospital, dental offices, nursing homes, and other facilities have snapped up Louie's shields. "A great achievement was that shields were certified and approved by CHOP," said Louie.
As the pandemic spread, Louie adjusted his design to add additional protection at the top to block droplets from seeping into the eyes and nose. With a new National Institutes of Health compliant design, Louie expanded production with the help of five additional printers on loan from EA.
Obtaining supplies was a challenge. Filament, PETG plexiglass, and buttonhole elastic were sold out worldwide. But Louie tracked down a supplier for the buttonhole elastic in Hong Kong. He eventually connected with another shield maker on Facebook and traded supplies to keep production going.
Louie was then notified that an anonymous EA donor offered to fund the costly filament and printer supplies going forward, in an effort to reach to 1,000-shield goal.
"I feel great thinking about how many healthcare professionals that we have helped throughout this process," shared Louie. "While we have helped so many people it has also helped me personally. If I was simply sitting around and doing nothing, yes maybe my grades would be better, but I would not have the day to day joy that is brought to me by the thankful people that I have helped."
Media outlets around the world have highlighted Louie's mask-making efforts, including The Philadelphia Inquirer. That piece caught the eye of The Philadelphia Flyers. The ice hockey team named Louie a "Flyers Community Teammate" the week of May 11.
EA parent Dr. Alex Anthopoulos P '18, '20 is one of hundreds of healthcare workers who has benefited from the EA freshman's effort. Dr. Anthopoulos has delivered 45 babies wearing Louie's NIH-approved face protector. "Initially we were provided some 3D-printed disposable face shields by someone else, but they tended to fog up easily while we are wearing the N95 mask. Louie's product is superior in that not only is it reusable, but it does not fog up," said Dr. Anthopoulos. "The fact that Louie is producing reusable face shields is really a life saver!"
As Louie eases into summer break, he will continue to make more masks until his supplies run out. "After completing the COVID-19 3D-printed face shield project, I will be completing a six week internship at CairnSurgical where I will consult with the start-up on how they can better use 3D printing to produce their product in the future," said Louie. "CairnSurgical provides custom surgical guides for each patient to assist in the removal of breast cancer tumors."