The Mt. Olive High School Marauder Innovation Learning Lab (MILL) has become the ‘face shield cave’ in Mt. Olive where three "superheroes" have been fighting against time in protecting thousands of frontline health care workers.
Thanks to the technology, dedication and passion of two teachers and a former MOHS student, thousands of health-care workers will be provided with face-shields being fabricated right here in Mt. Olive. Schools are closed in the district, but with the approval by the Mt. Olive Board of Education and superintendent, the MILL has been utilized this past week to make 3D face shields desperately needed by medical professionals interfacing with those affected by the Coronavirus.
David Bodmer, a MOHS teacher of engineering and industrial design for grades nine through 12; along with former student Matthew Dunster; and Jennifer Kalkunte, a MOHS math teacher, have been spending hours in the MILL making face shields with its 3D printers and laser cutters. Just this past week, 150 face shields were donated to Hackettstown and Newton Hospitals, and 15,000 more are hoped to be made and distributed next week.
The technology, effort, donations and willingness to contribute time and skill during this time of crisis can only be applauded.
“It’s a real tribute to the board’s support for technology we have,” says Mt. Olive School District Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Zywicki, who gave a shout out to the teachers involved with the project during his Wednesday, Parent University call through Facebook, in which he provided an update to parents regarding distance learning. “With a bay of 35 3D printers in the MILL at the high school, “kids do wonderful things,” but also with Rutgers and NYU reaching out to the school “because we have so many printers and that we can be a leader in helping to support our community during this crisis, is great.”
Former MOHS Principal Kevin Stansberry, who now serves as director of Secondary Education within the district, says it’s “a tremendous story; it's an impressive journey. These guys are absolutely amazing.” They have created “partnerships with universities and companies. This is magnificent; We are so proud of everyone involved in this project.
“It’s fantastic, what these men and Jen are doing," he says. "It’s filling the gaps in this time of health crisis.”
Operation Face Shields Begins
It was last Tuesday, March 24, when a medical student at Rutgers University Hospital in Newark, Rohan Sawhnew, reached out to Bodmer via email informing him about the shortage of masks and shields for medical professionals.
Sawhnew learned about MOHS’s technology from one of his colleagues, Jason Frasca at Montclair University, who knew “we had a similar 3D lab up here,” explains Bodmer.
The request was one Bodmer could not ignore.
As a matter of fact, “When things started happening,” when COVID-19 got more serious, Bodmer tells how his wife questioned his delay in his expertise to help out.
“She said ‘how long are you going to sit there and not do anything?’” explains Bodmer.
“I’m an engineer,” says Bodmer. “I can’t help I want to help in some way.”
In this call for action, Bodmer reached out to Dunster, one of his former students, as well as math teacher, Kalkunte.
Bodmer says he chose Dunster for the project because, “Matt is someone I can trust with being a part of this effort.
“Matt and I stayed in touch since he was a student” for 11 years, says Bodmer. Dunster, a 2012 graduate of MOHS, was one of Bodmer’s students. They connected over the years during winter and summer breaks and then Dunster became one of Bodmer’s team mentors for the MOHS Underwater Robotics Team, Loggerhead ROV, a marine technology development program.
“He was my robotics teacher, robotics mentor, and then in 2016 I jumped on board when he started the MATE Loggerhead ROV team,” explains Dunster. “So, we have been working together almost three days a week since 2016. I believe my history with him, as well as my knowledge of helping in the lab that we work out of, is why he asked me to jump on board.”
After engaging his team virtually through Google meetings and texting, Bodmer then sought permission from school leaders to use the MILL. With Zywicki’s clearance, Bodmer went full steam ahead.
As early as the next day, Wednesday, March 25, the three started “on making parts for our shields up through Sunday.”
With access through the back door and then up the elevator, to avoid exposure of germs in other parts of the school, the trio got busy, and began “full printing mode.”
They set up three shifts, 7 a.m.; 1 p.m.; and 7 p.m., utilizing 24 3D printers in the MILL space.
A design for the 3D model headband was sent to them through Rutgers University Medical Center in order to follow the guidelines on the specs for the face shields, explains Dunster, who works as a vice president for Special Technical Services in Hackettstown, a family-owned small manufacturing company started by his grandfather that provides grounding equipment and static monitoring systems to protect personnel, equipment and plant operations.
Prusa Face Shields was the design they were using, he says. Their original task was to make the 3D model headbands and then send those to Rutgers to install the plastic face shields, “but we were able to make our own plastic shields,” using laser cutters, explains Dunster.
“It’s been quite a crazy week for us,” says Bodmer.
But as of Friday, Bodmer and Dunster realized that the amount of parts and shields being fabricated by the 3D printers “was not going to meet the demands” with the number of shields they were hoping to yield.
“It took us about 12 hours to make four headbands on each printer,” explains Dunster. “So, we were able to make about 80 in total every 12 hours or so.”
As of Wednesday, April 1, Bodmer says they were “wrapping up” its 3D printing of 300 face shields.
Their first batch of 150 face shields made with the 3D printers went out Monday, March 30, to Hackettstown and Newton hospitals.
On Wednesday, April 1, another 50 shields went out to local residents and Saint Claire’s in Denville.
In the meantime, earlier in the week, the student from Rutgers University who reached out to them “went silent” and they eventually learned that he was one of the medical students being utilized as front line medical worker for Covid-19, says Bodmer.
Sawhnew is now on the front line at the temporary hospital set up at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.
Laser Cutting Takes Over
The team decided that they would move away from the 3D printing of the masks and utilize its laser cutters for a greater output of shields, says Bodmer. They connected with two teachers from Warren Hills High School with a plan to fabricate 10,000 face shields with the laser cutting method; that number has grown to a goal of 15,000 face shields if donations continue to come in.
They can make “two per minute” by using the laser cutters, adds Dunster, which would increase their output by 10 times.
“I am not sure of the exact model of the laser cutters,” says Dunster, “But we have two of them at MOHS. “The 10,000 are being pre-cut by the supplier to help us get them made quicker.”
Materials for the laser cut face shields include PETG, a clear film plastic; polyurethane foam; and elastic band to wrap around the head, explains Dunster, a 2016 mechanical engineering major from Worcester Polytechnical Institute in Massachusetts.
The plastic is coming in from TPI Plastics with mills in Michigan; foam coming from Chicago; and elastic from Goldstar in California, adds Bodmer. The material for the shields are expected to come in on Monday.
Foam will be placed around the plastic shields with double-sided tape instead of the 3D headbands.
The shields being fabricated at MOHS will support front-line medical professionals in Morris, Sussex, Warren and Hunterdon, they say, while those being made at Montclair State University will be supporting Essex, Hudson and Bergen.
Out of the 10,000 shields, the state police will help distribute the shields, says Bodmer. MOHS will also be giving 500 shields to Hackensack Medical Center.
In addition, 150 shields were to be given to Mt. Olive’s first responders and front line medical professionals, he adds, and 25 were to be given to local residents who asked privately if they can have one for family members who work on the front-line.
The template design for the shields meet all regulations and standards as they were designed by NYU Maker Space and also approved by Johns Hopkins University, its medical department and staff, says Bodmer.
“Our shields can be sanitized with bleach wipes,” says Bodmer. Staff can reuse the shields. “They are not just a single use product.”
He says they decided on shields instead of masks because it is “easier to make face shields verses masks since they can be wiped.”
They are effective because they will allow the medical staff to keep working, he explains. They are designed with a barrier to prevent potential liquids from getting onto the face.
They are also supposed to “stop any airborne contaminants” from getting in, says Dunster. “Before they were just using safety glasses; now they have face shields along with the masks to give them the best way to be safe.”
Donations Support Effort
Lots of monetary support came from family, friends and strangers, they say, estimating $20K in donations. The district did help with the printing costs by allowing the team to use the MILL, as well as the initial batch of plastic sheets that were in the MILL to fill their immediate need.
On March 29 they posted a request of Facebook requesting donations.
“At this time our biggest constraint is financing this effort,” Dunster posted. “If anyone is willing and able to help support this, we are looking for donations of any amount to cover the cost of the supplies necessary to manufacture these shields. The current cost for one shield is about $2.10.”
That first post attracted close to $7K that day with donations mailed to his house, says Dunster.
“They all want to help,” says Bodmer adding that a donation even came as far as California.
They used crowd sourcing, which allowed them to place their order totaling $15K, says Bodmer.
In Dunster’s second post on Facebook the next day he writes: “I want to thank everyone for their support, whether by donation, encouragement, and/or sharing our post. We would not be able to do any of this without the support of our town, school district, and community, so thank you very much! As of right now, we have over 180 people donate to help this effort!!”
After partnering up with two teachers at Warren Hills High School, they came up with a game plan.