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Across the country, hospitals are pleading for equipment to battle the coronavirus epidemic. In New York, Bronx Community College heeded the call, using its 3-D printers on campus to produce the basic parts of face shields for health care workers on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.

The effort began with BCC Grants Director Judith Eisenberg. Working out of her home in Westchester County while the campus is shut down, she spotted an email from the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation (HVEDC) asking for anybody with access to 3-D printers to help produce the face shields needed at hospitals in the area.

Eisenberg passed the plea on to what would become a team of BCC personnel involved in the project: Luis Montenegro, Dean of Academic Affairs; Mark Lennerton, Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology; Neal Phillip, Chairperson of the Department of Chemistry, Earth Sciences, and Environmental Sciences); Christopher Rodriguez, the chemistry department’s Chief Laboratory Technician) and Michael Fields, Senior Laboratory Technician. “They responded immediately,” recalled Eisenberg. “We all felt like we really want to do something.”

HVEDC provided templates for the face masks, that were then adapted for the BCC printers. Working in Meister and Colston Halls on the largely deserted campus while observing the now widely practiced protocols of social distancing, Lennerton, Rodriguez and Fields spent a week producing parts for face shields at the rate of one every 35 minutes. The material used for the face shields was derived from cornstarch, which liquifies when heated and can be shaped by the printers.  “We wear face masks and gloves when we are printing the shields so we don’t put any droplets on the printers,” Rodriquez observed in a rare moment of rest during the hectic week.

“We’re trying to make some sort of contribution,” he added. “We are representing the College. BCC is helping outside of the campus. It’s rewarding.”

On Monday, April 6, Mark Lennerton took time out from his current task of providing BCC students and faculty with the hardware and guidance for distance learning and drove up to Westchester with the parts for over 200 face shields. From there, they will be distributed to hospitals to be assembled and used in the critical tasks of saving lives.

Director Lennerton sees the experience gained in this mission of mercy as having future applications when the epidemic is over. “I think we’ve found that we can use and need this capability. It’s important to have. It’s going to open people’s eyes to what can be.”

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