Despite school closures and bans on social events leaving many kids bored with idle time, the last few weeks have been busier than ever for two local students.
Nicholas Verzic and Robert Beliveau, both students at Khan Lab School in Mountain View, have been working in recent days to craft face shields for health care workers, operating the school's 3D printers from home around the clock. The two teens say it's their way of helping out during the crisis brought on by the new coronavrius, which has left many hospital workers without personal protective equipment.
"It was eye-opening to hear about health care professionals who were starting to make face shields out of cut-up bottles because they don't have access to these supplies," Verzic said.
Santa Clara County supervisors and health care officials have been calling on the public to donate medical supplies to the region's hospital system, everything from gloves to hazmat suits. Though there isn't presently a supply shortage in the county, that's likely to change as the number of cases rise.
Verzic, who has a background in 3D printing as a member of the private school's robotics team, said his first thought was to repurpose the school's two 3D printers and create his own makeshift supply line of protective gear. He popped the question to administrators at Khan Lab School, located off of Shoreline Boulevard, who entrusted the pair of students to take the printers home while the campus is closed.
"When this COVID-19 outbreak became international news, I started seeing a lot of other people utilizing their 3D printers to help in some way, mobilizing them to print certain parts of the N95 masks and parts of face shields, like we're doing now."
Since then, Verzic said it's been a whirlwind of activity for him and Beliveau, who is his cousin. Full days are spent making mask components, and larger builds are being printed overnight. The printers are hardly industrial grade -- they're smaller -- meaning lots of time has to go into managing the machine.
"Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, and it's the job of my cousin and I to correct that," he said. "It's much more active than standard printing."
Many of the logistics, like building masks with the right specifications and actually getting them to the hospitals, have been handled by Maker Nexus, a nonprofit maker space based in Sunnyvale. The organization has acted as the critical link between ambitious volunteers with 3D printers and health care organizations in need of supplies.
Originally, the goal was for Verzic and Beliveau to produce 200 masks, paying for supplies through a $600 GoFundMe last week. Within days, they had received more than $1,400, and are now seeking to scale up production. Verzic said he was caught by surprise by the outpouring of support, and said it's possible they may rent another 3D printer to ramp up production.
"We're just high school students trying to help in any way that we can," he said. "You can imagine our surprise when we got double what we were requesting."
Anyone interested in seeing the students work can check in on their live stream, which has been recording their work since the beginning.