By Riley Prillwitz | Illustration by Jubilee Hernandez
Events during the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. have introduced uncharted waters. While most people have the luxury of quarantining in their homes, there are many other people who are considered essential and must continue to work on-site.
These workers, therefore, are at a much higher risk for infection than those who are staying home. In order to continue to work, they need sufficient protection against the virus. Two Colorado College professors have recognized the demand for protection and decided to do something about it.
Assistant Professor of Art Rachel Paupeck recently moved from New York to begin teaching at CC. A lot of her family and friends are currently in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic.
“I started to get really sad for about two days, and I felt really overwhelmed,” confessed Paupeck. “I couldn’t imagine doing nothing, but I’m so far away.”
Distance did not stop Paupeck from taking action to help during these trying times. “Some of my friends from design school transferred their firms into making masks, finding models online to print from 3-D printers,” she said. “I was really inspired by that, and I have so many resources on campus and like-minded professors to help.”
Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Andrea Bruder had come up with the same idea to print 3-D masks on campus. The two seemingly unlikely partners began to work together on the project.
Soon, the pair was joined by other professors, and different CC departments found ways to further their goal, helping to spread the word or donating to the project. Even community members began to volunteer their services.
“Everyone who heard about it could somehow help,” Paupeck said.
Assistant Professor of Art Emma Powell, Environmental Studies Program Technical Director Darren Ceckanowicz, and paraprofessional SethWilson Gray currently make up the rest of the team assisting Bruder and Paupeck. “We go in four shifts each day to go check-in on the printers, each dedicating about five hours a day,” explained Paupeck.
The team has four printers in total, gathered from the art and physics departments. They are also working on getting two 3-D printers from the library fixed so that they may also use them.
Depending on what model is used, the team can currently print four to eight masks a day with the four printers at CC. Paupeck explained that one model prints “in a 12-hour shift. It has more plastic and is better for wearing for longer periods of time, like by hospital or grocery store workers. The other uses half the material and prints in about half the time.”
However, their production has not occurred exclusively at CC. A retired Air Force engineer, as well as three other community members, have 3-D printers at home and are using their resources to help print. They heard about the project through “word of mouth” and pitched in. All together, they produce 10 to 15 masks a day.
“People in the UCCS Robotics Lab helped us create a mold so they could also 3-D print or create masks with a mold technology that we don’t have at CC,” Paupeck said.
With help from the community, the CC professors have been able to distribute masks to those who need them both right here in Colorado Springs and in the larger community.
“Yesterday, I met with the heads of the Fire Department and EMT,” said Paupeck. “We are going to commit 300 masks to use in smaller towns. That was really neat … they were so appreciative.”
The masks have also been distributed to smaller businesses. Paupeck recently delivered masks to the Garden of the Gods Café.
“The workers put them on immediately,” says Paupeck. “They looked so relieved.”
This distribution has opened doors to connecting community members with one another. Paupeck is grateful to connect with the Colorado Springs community in a way she has not done before.
“As someone who recently moved to Colorado Springs, I didn’t know much about my community,” she explained. “I might not have had the opportunity otherwise.”
While the project has so far been a big success, Paupeck admits that it is not an easy goal to tackle.
“It is constant problem solving,” she said. “It is not a well-oiled machine, and every day we have about four break-downs. It is dealing with real-world consequences.”
Despite the constant problems, Paupeck has used these situations to continue to inspire and teach her students at CC. She has stayed connected with them through GroupMe and has been proud to receive the support and problem-solving they have provided.
“Design is the ultimate, active optimism,” Paupeck said.
Bruder and Paupeck have set up a GoFundMe page, as well as a Crowdfund page. They ask that anyone willing and able to donate to do so in order to keep their efforts going.
You can donate here: