Shielding the Community
Toros came together to create protective face shields and PPE and get them to those in need.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first took hold during the spring of 2020, the CSUDH community didn’t just sit back in socially distanced isolation. Instead, many professors, students, and staff came together to help fill a sudden, glaring need: face shields and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Whether working from home or in repurposed campus spaces, these dedicated Toros have created and distributed thousands of masks and face shields during the pandemic. Their efforts have undoubtedly helped save lives in the United States and abroad.
Art Professor Creates PPE Distribution Network
During the early stages of the pandemic, Assistant Professor of Art and Design Devon Tsuno became increasingly worried about his wife, Rieko Takamatsu, a nurse treating patients in a Los Angeles hospital that had begun rationing its limited PPE supply.
Tsuno wanted to help but wasn’t sure how. Ultimately, Tsuno and Cypress College art professor Ed Giardina decided to create and 3D-print their own medical face shields. They suspected others would be willing to help and began reaching out to friends and colleagues, primarily within the art community.
Donations to purchase printers and the necessary materials began rolling in. Soon, the educators were up and running, printing the shields from their homes. Additional funding allowed them to ultimately increase production to 48 3D printers.
“Once my wife started wearing them and began telling colleagues, the word spread really quickly. We started posting what we were doing online and within hours people were showing up at my house asking for the shields,” said Tsuno.
Their distribution network grew to 25 volunteers, who have collectively printed more than 22,000 face shields. The team included art engagement fellows and teaching artists from CSUDH’s PRAXIS program, as well as faculty from Loyola Marymount University, and art students from both campuses.
The network, calling itself the 3D PPE Artist Network, distributed their PPE to those in need throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties—from employees at Trader Joe’s, Vons, and Whole Foods, to small businesses and city services such as the L.A. Food Bank and the Huntington Beach Fire Department. Their face shields have been distributed as far as California’s Central Valley, Arizona, New York, and Mexico.
“It is great when people are willing to help people they don’t know, and to see students using their organizational, collaborative, and creative skills to do it,” Tsuno said. “That is one of the most amazing things about this entire effort.”
Supplying Local Hospitals
Even as Tsuno’s group was setting up their PPE distribution network, two faculty-led groups at CSUDH were using 3D printers to help supply local hospitals on the frontlines of the pandemic with much-needed face shields.
Paul Penoliar, lecturer and clinical instructor in the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (OT) Department, and Kamal Hamdan, Annenberg-endowed professor and director of the Center for Innovation in STEM Education (CISE) at CSUDH took on the challenge shortly after the campus moved to online instruction in March.
With the help of a pair of OT students, Penoliar moved his department’s four new 3D printers to his home in Glendale to manufacture face shields. They downloaded a pattern for the shields, and within a few hours were up and running. The following day, Penoliar began laser cutting parts for the shields at his home. He ran the printers for 12 hours a day to produce the smaller components of the face shields.
Meanwhile, over in the CISE offices, Hamdan knew he couldn’t let their nearly 400 3D printers sit idle during the pandemic. He set up a Zoom call with staff and undergraduate STEM students to brainstorm ways to repurpose the fab lab equipment.
“I said let’s find a way to print face shields,” Hamdan said. “Our team is amazing. Within half an hour the right file was located online, the software was identified and downloaded, and others began trying to locate materials to purchase. We soon had three prototypes of the face shields.”
CISE used approximately 50 of its larger 3D printers to print the face shields. They set up an assembly line to program the printer, run the laser cutters, and assemble the parts. Production took place in the Toyota Center for Innovation and STEM Education, located in CSUDH’s new Science and Innovation Building.
“We have the most amazing team, and our STEM students are just brilliant and so driven. They dropped everything and began working day and night trying to figure out how to get this done,” Hamdan said. “These are forward-thinking, decent people, who are so motivated to make a difference in others’ lives. I am so proud of them all.”
The face shields created by the teams were distributed to local hospitals, medical centers, and to CSUDH faculty who needed them at the hospitals where they work.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of CSUDH Magazine, a publication of California State University, Dominguez Hills.