Before the coronavirus outbreak, Kohelet Yeshiva High School art teacher Daniel Ostrov was using the Merion Station school’s 3D printer and laser cutter to teach his students to make simple household objects like cups and plates.
Now, he is using it to make face shields — acrylic screen barriers held in place with headbands and to cover the whole face and protect wearers from coronavirus.
“The face shield is not going to protect you from everything, but it will protect people’s eyes,” he said. “It can also be worn with a face mask to protect the mouth and nose.”
Kohelet Yeshiva’s COVID-19 Face Shield Project is using equipment from the school’s Fabrication Laboratory to create face shields to donate to medical professionals on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The initiative is spearheaded by High School Science Department Chair Diane Weintraub, Head of School Dr. Rabbi Gil S. Perl and Ostrov and his wife, Stephanie Cole.
The effort, which has been covered by KYW Newsradio, all started when Weintraub found an open source face shield design released by the company Prusa3D in a Google group. She forwarded it to Ostrov and Perl.
“I suggested it would be a nice project, since it really speaks to our mission,” she said.
Ostrov and Perl created the first prototype on March 22. However, they were missing a crucial material: buttonhole elastic for the headbands.
“I posted online that we were doing this and this was the one product we needed — it was absolutely amazing what happened in the next two hours,” Perl said. “People were posting and reposting in WhatsApp chats and Instagram. People were leaving bags for me on their porch and I was going around town collecting from people. We had a grandmother who remembered seeing that material in the cloth diapers her children used 20 years ago and she started cutting them out to give to us.”
According to Perl, the prototype was approved by the infectious diseases prevention team at Lankenau Medical Center on March 24. The staff began fielding requests from doctors and nurses once word of the project spread on social media.
The first face shields went to members of the Kohelet community who were first responders or who worked in medical fields. Demand has been high.
“Our first real demand came from people in New York because the situation is really scary and sad there,” Weintraub said. “We have been sending some to New York, but until we can scale up our production, we want to focus on serving the Philadelphia community.”
The first prototypes took a long time to manufacture, Ostrov explained. While the acrylic sheet component could be produced quickly using a laser cutter, the plastic headbands had to be 3D printed, a much slower process.
He could make a maximum of 32 a day using this design, and has since pivoted to using another model that can be made entirely from laser-cut acrylic. According to Perl, that prototype was approved by Lankenau on March 27 and will increase production tenfold.
“I could make them 24/7 as fast as I possibly can and I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demand,” Ostrov said.
Members of the Kohelet Yeshiva community who work in medical fields are experiencing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic at their jobs.
“It’s created a lot more anxiety on the part of the patients and doctors,” said Nachum Stollman, a vice president on Kohelet Yeshiva’s board of directors and a radiologist at Main Line Health System. “Time between examinations has increased to allow for more thorough cleaning between patients. We’re trying not to have too many patients in the waiting area for social distancing.”
“It’s incredible to be part of a school and volunteer for a place like this — which I do because my kids go here and it’s an amazing institution — and for it to have this impact on my professional life,” said Stollman, who has already given face shields to some people at his workplace.
Perl said the project benefits students as well, even if they aren’t making the masks.
“This project aligns with our mission to give back to the community. Our kids are not involved directly, but they are watching,” he said. “And the best teaching method is to lead by example.”
The school is actively seeking donations to cover the costs of face shield production. Those interested in donating money or materials, such as 12-inch strips of buttonhole elastic, can do so at koheletyeshiva.org/faceshields.
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