BOLIVAR – When he saw a Facebook post from someone with Citizens Memorial Hospital seeking help in trying to print 3D-printable respirator masks to combat COVID-19, Keith Kelly first enlisted the help of fellow SBU alum Matt Winder to go to work on the project.
“We collaborated with physicians through video to show them several designs we found online, then we made design modifications based on their feedback,” Kelly said. “Within five days (and an entire bucket of rejects), we had two customized versions that passed the Qualitative Fit Test. These designs both used adequate filtration, were easy to breathe through, were reasonably comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, maintained a good seal, and were easily printable and feasible to deploy.
“Since then, (SBU alumnus) Lucas Roberts has joined the team and has taken the PR lead, as well as written a ton of documentation (and done insanely well). Several others have joined the team as well, volunteering their printers, time and money to help get these things cranked out as quick as possible.”
SBU alumnus Danny Miller also has recently joined the team of volunteers as they print the respirator masks for CMH, as well as help others outside of Bolivar, including physicians from other clinics, suppliers or donors.
In fact, a friend currently under lockdown in India donated HEPA filters for 140 masks through an order from Fleet Farm Supply,” Kelly said.
Volunteers have spent many hours on the project, in addition to the responsibilities they have at their jobs.
“My employer, Duck Creek, was super-supportive of my involvement in this project – especially the critical, first few days when I was putting a good 14-18 hours per day in the prototyping/design/testing part, along with Matt,” Kelly said. “Now that a design has been chosen and we’re on week number two, I’m only spending about 6-8 hours a day on this project – mainly making connections with people, tracking down supplies, donations, doing interviews and helping others on the team get what they need.
“That’s still a lot of time if you look at the numbers, but this is suddenly what I do in my free time. Working with volunteers is great – nobody’s doing it for the money – and interacting with people is quite fun when everyone has a giving spirit.”
SBU faculty members Dr. Perry Tompkins, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics and professor of physics, and Dr. Dennis Siegfried, professor of biology and department chair, also have volunteered their time and efforts in assisting with the printing of the masks.
“Dr. Siegfried told me about the effort and since I have four 3D printers, I started printing parts and helping in the final phases of the design,” Tompkins said. “I currently have two of my printers printing parts. This is an effort of supporting our local community, serving those who are serving us. They are a backup plan, not meant to replace the standard masks. Serving others is one of the backbone principles at SBU.”
Working on this project during these unprecedented times revealed SBU’s mission to Kelly in a number of ways as he and Winder navigated their way through those first days of prototyping.
“It was daunting, hard, encouraging and discouraging at times,” Kelly said. “Matt demonstrated the servant-leader side a couple of notable times when it was 2 a.m. and I was wrapping up another design prototype. He’d call to simply be available in case I had any issues. He’d even think ahead to upcoming things on my list in order to help me get a jump-start on those.
“This sounds like I was the designer in this project, which is simply untrue. We both built prototypes and sort of volleyed them back and forth to each other, building on each other’s findings.”
A researcher-by-hobby, Kelly said he did have difficulty coping at first, because the more research he did, “the more grim the situation looked.”
“But once this opportunity came up and I jumped in, I realized my purpose is not to worry; it’s not to obsess over trends,” Kelly said. “It’s to observe the reality of the trends and do what I can to help people who will likely be affected by those trends.”