Technology for a Change

Students and staff from Livingston Public School's departments of Technology and Family Consumer Science have joined together to address the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) facing local medical workers. What started simply as an idea to help in unprecedented circumstances has grown into a well-organized movement that has produced hundreds of pieces of PPE for those who need it most.

To date, they have donated 249 3D printed masks, 962 face shields, 228 sewn masks, 56 surgical caps, 1962 ear savers (see for up to date numbers) to New Jersey hospitals, police departments and funeral homes.

Ken Zushma said that the LHS Technology Department was looking to help immediately after school buildings were closed.

“What we did not want to do was product items that may not be wanted or needed.  Eventually we partnered with the Chatham School District and their supervisor Danielle Dagounis, someone I have worked in the TDE field for many years.  She has a contact with a person at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center who after seeing the design requested a batch of masks.  So, with the permission of our supervisors and building principals, we liberated the 3D printers from the buildings and put them to work,” he said.

The district’s 3-D printers and sewing machines were relocated out of schools and distributed to students and staff.  Since then, production of both face masks and face shields has been ongoing.

Zushma noted that while the masks they are creating are not the N95 type, medical professional have told him that they are useful for those on the periphery who do not have direct contact with infected patients, thus saving the premium product for where they are needed most.

LHS tech teacher Stacy Dworzanski read an article about how hospitals and health care professionals were looking for people to sew and make facemasks because of the shortage of PPE.

“I was hesitant at first and did a lot of research on the quality and effectiveness of the fabric masks, but it just seemed like everywhere I turned these nurses and doctors just wanted anything!” she said. “I thought... my students could do this!”

“After reaching out to Martha Ackerman (LHS secretary and assistant director of the Livingston Children’s Theater), who I knew was making these masks with her costumer, Barbara Anderson, we coordinated and with the support of my supervisor, Rob Rolling, we were able to get the students involved. Students are being led by LHS senior Isabella Icolari, who is managing the production of the fabric sewn masks, making masks and coordinating the promotion of both 3D printed and sewn masks," said Dworzanski.

"As a student who is heavily involved with the technology department, remote learning just doesn't provide the same hands-on learning that I have been so acclimated to," said Icolari. "When the opportunity arose to expand on the plan to use the district's equipment to produce PPE, I knew that I could run with it - and use the talents of other dedicated students to expand production.  Technology For a Change has been somewhat of a senior project for me.  It is a culmination of everything that LHS has taught me, from technical skills to the value of community service. I am so proud to have created an initiative that supports our essential workers and gives them hope that Livingston will always have their back."

In addition to masks and face shields, the group's 14 volunteers (seven teachers and seven students) are also making surgical caps and ear savers (a small plastic device that makes mask sizing more flexible).

“It is a very worthwhile endeavor and I’m so proud of my students for giving their time and talents to do such a good thing for the people who need it,” said Dworzanski.

Techology for a Change volunteers hope to continue to provide vital PPE materials to help keep medical staff and first responders safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. They will continue to work with their  distribution to get these resources to several local healthcare facilities.

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