Inter-departmental collaboration is alive and well at MJC! Dr. David Martin, Professor of Biology and Randy Thoe, Instructor of Manufacturing and Machine Tool Technology, collaborated on the creation of 3D PPE equipment to healthcare workers, but it was the addition of MJC student Andrei Burciu that scaled production!
Everything started when Dr. Martin received calls from former MJC students in the medical field making him aware of the shortages of PPE. Dr. Martin already had a 3D printer and initially he started by creating ear savers, given the uncomfortableness his former students expressed at wearing face masks and on top of that face shields that were cumbersome and adhesions were cutting into their faces and behind their ears.
Dr. Martin’s design worked, but it was not flexible enough for the wearer to avoid touching their faces when taking them off and he needed help scaling the production. He went to his Dean Laura Maki. Dean Maki made a phone call to Dean Pedro Mendez knew he needed to put Dr. Martin in touch with Randy Thoe.
Thoe, who had many years of experience working with the design program AutoCAD and is an expert in manufacturing jumped at the opportunity to collaborate across disciplines. He got to work on creating the new 3D design.
The new design created a space in between the front top piece of the shield, which made it less rigid and easier to take off and avoid contamination. Thoe knew just the right student to help him scale the production of the shields.
Andrei Burciu became an MJC student in the Fall of 2012 at 19 years of age. After only two semesters, his father was diagnosed with cancer and Burciu had to halt his education to run the family business. It was not until 2018, and with his father having survived cancer treatments, that Andrei decided to come back to MJC as a part-time student. Meeting with MJC counselor Natalie Hassell and being able to touch and see manufactured parts provided by Thoe to Hassell for students interested in Machine Tool Technology, sealed the choice of study for Andrei.
On March 1st Burciu received the 3D Printer he had bought after he had seen a video on YouTube on how through 3D Modeling had completed the much-needed aluminum piece that launched Space X. On April 17th Thoe called him to ask him to join the team and he was sending the new design file for the shields. Andrei shared, “I trust Randy. When he says something is necessary, I jump! I quickly got to work on creating the newly designed components for the shields. I will never forget the first time Dr. Martin came to pick up completed face shields from me, he took the bag, he looked at me straight in the eye and said ‘I want you to look at this carefully and know that in this bag you are saving many lives.’”
To date Burciu has produced 50 of the 180 face shields that have been delivered by the team to healthcare workers in the Bay Area, to local Modesto hospitals, and even New York. To date, the team has also produced 220 ear savers.
When a group of healthcare workers from the Bay Area ordered a shipment of face shields and ear savers from overseas, it was confiscated by the Federal government. This volunteer group was going to fly to New York City on their own dime and time to help their overburdened colleagues there.
They were in a bind. Dr. Martin received the call and immediately contacted Thoe and Burciu to speed up production.
“What Dr. Martin said to me, really stayed with me. I do not know if it’s my father’s cancer, but normally it is hard for me to get up early. Now, I do not mind that I wake up every two hours to monitor the manufactured pieces on my 3D printer. In addition, I run a plumbing business and I am taking two MJC courses. As a result of this experience, I want to start my own manufacturing business. I think we need to bring manufacturing back to this country and I want to be one of those leaders.”
The team has expanded, and the collaboration across disciplines has also expanded. It now includes the Computer Science Department, which owns a 3D Printer, as well as the Business and Social Sciences Division.
Dr. Martin expressed, “This community college education at its best. This virus will be with us for a long time and we will continue protecting healthcare workers.”