Helping shield healthcare workers St. Louis COVID-19

Face Shield Initiative STL is a group of St. Louis volunteer designers, fabricators and doctors developing facemasks for local EMTs, nurses and doctors

By Brett Auten

The fight against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is continuing on several fronts.

Inventor Forge Makerspace, located in the Economic Development Center (EDC) of St. Charles County Incubator, is helping lead a regional effort to help the medical community defend themselves while trying to heal those who are afflicted with the highly-contagious virus.

Emily Elhoffer and David Cervantes helped organize Face Shield Initiative STL, a group of St. Louis volunteer designers, fabricators and doctors researching and developing designs to provide facemasks for local EMTs, nurses and doctors. Face Shield Initiative STL has been working closely with Barnes-Jewish Hospital to provide alternate sources for much-needed medical supplies.

Currently, there are around 30 community members who are voluntarily running 3D printers to help build small batch supplies for face shields. Along with Inventor Forge, two other makerspaces (MADE Makerspace and Arch Reactor) are assisting with the hands-on manufacturing needs.

Over the weekend, Inventor Forge delivered 50 headbands and 175 face shields to Doctor Madhu Kancherla at Mercy Hospital. Dr. Kancherla said the plan is to donate the face shields to the ICU staff at Mercy. Dr. Kancherla, a heart specialist who has lived in St. Louis for over 20 years reached out to Inventor Forge. He stressed that there are some very sick patients in the Mercy hospitals for which, the health care workers, need better protection at Mercy South Hospital and the main Mercy Hospital, especially for the frontline doctors and nurses working in our Intensive Care Units.

“When we found out about (Face Shield Initiative STL) we were like, ‘Let’s do this,’” Inventor Forge member Luke Offner, a St. Peters resident, said. “We were all on Slack (a chat room app) talking and sharing ideas. It just snowballed from there.”

Inventor Forge is a nonprofit group of makers, inventors, artists and free thinkers in the St. Charles area who actively support STEM and STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) initiatives and provides classes in as many areas of STEAM it can support.

“These are all volunteers with a goal of delivering 300 masks,” Inventor Forge member Luke Offner said. “After that, we will see what else they need us to do.”

Inventor Forge Makerspace serves as a creative ideas lab and creation space for any age. It is a membership-based shared space where hobbyists, professionals, novices, and all of those in-between can come to imagine and create both individually and together using woodworking to laser cutting, programming electronics to 3D-Printing.

Printer operators include George Fetters, Doug Vaugn, Bill Plemmons, Gary Liming, Adam Scearce, Eric Bowman, Carl Schoeneberg, and Josh Medley. Laser operators include Greg Buescher James Kantor, and Plemmons. Supplies (including bags, bands, and labels: Offner and George Fetters.

After a flurry of Zoom conference calls, laser cut-prototypes, and other quick-turnarounds, Face Shield Initiative STL has been working around the clock, and out of pocket. All donated funds are used to help this jump-started organization pay for materials (PETG sheets and filament, PLA filament, and more) and administrative needs (website, utilities) as it evolves.

Starting last week, Cervantes began corralling all the local resources he could for 3D printing and fabrication. Between the volunteer leaders at MADE Makerspace, Inventor Forge, and Arch Reactor, they banded together to hammer out a working small-scale design and manufacturing operation to make the much-needed medical face shields for healthcare professionals.

Face Shield Initiative STL has amassed over $4,000 in material costs, and plan to order more materials in the coming weeks. For more information on Face Shield Initiative, visit its GoFundMe page.

CUTLINE: Photos courtesy Inventor Forge Makerspace
Cover-Sheild1 Inventor Forge Makerspace’s Bill Plemmons collects and seals up face shields to be donated to area healthcare providers in the battle against the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Cover-Sheild2 3D printers are running constantly at Inventor Forge in the EDC Incubator in St. Charles County as they collaborate with other tech groups in the St. Louis for Face Shield Initiative STL to create face shields for the medical community. Donations are now needed for PETG and PLA filament and elastic bands to secure the shields.