Eric Gever loves a challenge.
When the 34-year-old aerospace engineer at the Boeing plant in Seal Beach heard last week from his robotic group friends that they were trying to help out some New York-area hospitals by making face shields using their 3D printers, he volunteered enthusiastically.
But he had no idea that when he started a Go Fund Me page on March 31 that the people of Long Beach and beyond would want to support his effort so enthusiastically.
Starting with a goal of $5,000, people have already helped him raised almost $6,000 in just five days, including $2,000 last Saturday alone. According to the latest update on his GFM page, Gazettes.com/faceshield, the crowdfunding goal is now $12,000.
“This is being fueled by passion,” Gever said by mobile phone as he was driving to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo to deliver another 100 shields. “It’s all volunteer.”
And the volunteer effort hasn’t stopped with his robotic group friends; he has college students from Long Beach State and Cal Poly Pomona as well as students from Long Beach Poly High School using their printers to make shields.
“I’m the mentor for the Poly team,” Gever said. “Our season was cut short and the students were understandably disappointed. We had plans for this whole month to work on the robot, and we were trying to think how we could use the 3D printer at school, and then this popped up.”
Garrett Schnack is a junior at Poly and a member of the Jackrabots team. He was sitting at home watching TV when he saw the first Slack message from Gever asking for help in making shields. He was more than happy to help. He is able to produce two shields every 2 ½ hours — and he is making 10 per day.
“At first, I didn’t think much of it,” he said. “I didn’t know how big it was going to be. But after seeing the messages from the hospitals, I’m just honored to help out.”
Last weekend, the Covid Makers of Long Beach Response Team — that’s what Gever calls his team of manufacturers and distributors — was working almost around the clock to prepare shields to be delivered around the country.
Gever said his team is using PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol), a thermoplastic polyester to make the shields because it is designed to be sanitized using ultraviolet light or heat treatment.
“Right now, I can produce a shield for about 60 cents,” he said. “But I’m hoping to make the cost come down even more so we can keep buy more equipment to make the shields.”
As of Tuesday, Gever’s team has manufactured more than 1,400 shields.
“In just the past couple days, we have delivered to Mission Hospital, USC Verdugo Hills, Capital Health (Hopewell, New Jersey), Arcadia Methodist, Glendale Memorial, multiple AHMC hospitals throughout Los Angeles, Haven Elite Urgent Care and Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park,” he said.
Gever wrote on his donations page that the response team is producing orders of a magnitude faster than he could imagine. The hope is to produce quantities in the tens of thousands by the time the project is complete.
“A lot of folks supporting us have family or friends who work at the hospitals,” he said. “With Mission Hospital, I had a co-worker at Boeing who teamed me up with someone from the medical center.”