FIU’s College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts has expanded its initiative to produce 3D-printed personal protective equipment (PPE) for those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supported by a gift from FIU President’s Council member Angela Martinez and FIU alumnus Raul Chavez ’80, the college 3D-printed 1,000 protective face shields for local fire-rescue departments. The shields—made utilizing more than 30 of the university’s 3D printers and assembled at the Miami Beach Urban Studios—were transferred to the City of Miami and Miami-Dade fire and rescue departments on April 17.
Martinez and Chavez were inspired by the college’s partnership with Baptist Health to produce a minimum of 1,000 face shields for health care professionals caring for sick patients earlier this month.
The nationwide shortage of PPE is an issue close to the couple’s hearts. Chavez, an alumnus of the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences, worked for fire-rescue for 35 years and remains in close contact with his former colleagues; and Martinez is a community psychologist and licensed clinical social worker who has been providing free crisis management counseling to Baptist Health professionals on the front lines of the pandemic.
“We were very concerned about the shortage of supplies. When we saw that FIU was working on this project, it occurred to us that we could do something to benefit the firefighters and first responders here in our community who are on the front lines, as well,” Martinez said.
Led by John Stuart, CARTA associate dean of cultural and community engagement and executive director of MBUS, the FIU team that produced the face shields includes students and faculty from CARTA; the College of Engineering & Computing; the College of Arts, Sciences & Education; the Office of Research & Economic Development; the Honors College; and the Department of Emergency Management.
Brett Serfozo, a master's student involved in the project, said it has been a rewarding experience for him, and one that allowed him to employ the skills he has learned in his time at FIU in a real-world scenario. He was in charge of creating and modifying the files necessary for printing.
“I wanted to be a part of this project because I knew how much of a difference this would make in helping to keep the people on front lines of the pandemic healthy. Helping others has always been something I strive to do every day,” Serfozo said, adding the he is guided by his experience as an Eagle Scout and the Boy Scouts of America motto to “do a good turn daily.”
The City of Miami Department of Fire and Rescue put out a statement that read: “We are dealing with the worst tragedy our nation has ever seen. It’s inspirational to see organizations discovering creative ways to provide essential services and support to those on the front lines. We appreciate FIU joining our mission to protect our firefighters with resources necessary to safeguard our community.”
Pictured left is City of Miami Lt. Natalie Hernandez wearing one of the face shields.
Fire Chief Alan Cominsky of Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue said the department is grateful to the college and to Martinez and Chavez for the generous donation “intended to safeguard our fire-rescue personnel.”
“We assure you that this generous donation will go to help us continue to serve our community and will also help protect our first responders in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We praise the efforts of all those who were involved in this initiative to help guarantee the safety of our frontline personnel and of the community they serve,” Cominsky said.
CARTA Dean Brian Schriner thanked the couple for stepping forward to support his faculty and students in their endeavor to keep those on the front lines of the pandemic healthy.
“As Desmond Tutu reminded us, ‘A time of crisis is not just a time of anxiety and worry. It gives a chance, an opportunity, to choose well or to choose badly.’ Dr. Martinez and Mr. Chavez have, like they have in past, immediately stepped forward to partner with us and have chosen to do well and to help our community,” Schriner said.