BY KARA SHOEMAKER | May 27, 2020
MOXI Makes the Pivot to Help Protect Life
After shutting its doors to the public on March 13, the staff of MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation knew they wanted to do something to help the community during COVID-19. But what?
“Everyone at MOXI is very service oriented – everyone was asking ‘What can we do to help? What can we do that makes sense for us with our skillset? What can we offer?’” recalled Robin Gose, President & CEO of MOXI. At the time, the Santa Barbara County maker community, which may be best described as a technology-based extension of DIY culture, was also reaching out to MOXI with the same question.
“We had heard of other communities and makerspaces, like those at UCSB, that were starting to mobilize to make personal protective equipment (PPE),” said Gose. “I connected with Jackie Carrera from the Santa Barbara Foundation, and together we said ‘let’s make this happen!’”
With over 90 years of service in Santa Barbara County, and experience supporting the community through disasters like the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow, the Santa Barbara Foundation is an expert in connecting local resources to those in need.
“When we connect resources, the possibilities are endless,” said Jackie Carrera, President & CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “We knew that there was a need for PPE and reached out to makerspaces, those with 3D printers, to see if they could take vetted designs from other communities and produce them for Santa Barbara County. I am in awe of how quickly MOXI, UCSB and other makers adapted to fill this community need.”
Before COVID-19, MOXI’s makerspace, called the Innovation Workshop, was a place where community member of all ages could explore, learn, and get creative with low tech and high tech machines, including a 3D printer and laser cutter. With the museum now closed to the public, the makerspace and these high tech tools could be put to use creating face shields for the medical community of Santa Barbara County, who were experiencing a shortage of critical PPE, as were health workers all over the country.
The Foundation would help MOXI purchase the acrylic needed to 3D print 400 face shields. While cloth coverings are effective for civilian use, medical professionals use face shields to avoid contracting COVID-19 from patients. These clear plastic visors cover the entire face and are often used in conjunction with N-95 or surgical masks.
“PPE is literally life or death. It’s so important and impactful, and so necessary for these people who are working on the front lines,” explained Gose. “We wanted to utilize our staff and contribute our expertise, and we found a way to do it.”
In addition to creating PPE at the museum, MOXI’s staff reached out to their networks and invited the maker community to create their own face shields and drop them off at MOXI for collection. The response was very positive and PPE donations began pouring in. While MOXI was excited to have so many makers in the community stepping up to create much-needed PPE, this also presented some logistical challenges.
“Initially, we were doing okay in production, but struggling to organize as a collective group. Everyone was working independently to find resources, materials, and finding out where the need was,” said Sean O’Brien, MOXI’s Director of Exhibits and production lead for the PPE project. “We put our heads together and realized we had the opportunity to utilize the Foundation as the centralizing entity to connect people and materials together, as well as collect things that were finished, from manufacturers to small scale makers.
“Having the Foundation be the entity that surveys the need and distributes the product was critical, so we didn’t have a bunch of small entities duplicating efforts. It’s been a pleasure working with Stephanie and the Santa Barbara Foundation. Once we connected, that’s when things started to fall into place.”
Foundation Operations Manager Stephanie Roberson stepped into the role of donation coordinator and distributor for the PPE project. Roberson was able to streamline the process by compiling a master list of organizations in need of PPE, personally handling product fulfillment, and hand delivering over 10,000 face shields to 50 different organizations across the county.
“We extend our deepest gratitude to the Santa Barbara Foundation and MOXI, who collaborated on the innovative gift of face shields, which were provided to our dedicated caregivers,” said Sue Andersen, President and CEO of the Marian Regional Medical Center. “The Santa Barbara Foundation and Marian Regional Medical Center have long been community partners and we remain appreciative for their continued support.” The Center received over 2,000 pieces of PPE, one of the largest deliveries facilitated by Roberson to date.
UCSB Expands Their PPE Reach Through SBF
Roberson built maker connections across the county, and early on in the project linked up with UC Santa Barbara’s Professor Eric MacFarlane in the Chemical Engineering Department, and Dave Bothman, Manager of the California NanoSystems Institute’s Innovation Workshop. McFarland, who is also an emergency-room physician, has been helping Cottage Hospital source locally-made PPE. When Roberson reached out to McFarland, he was already heading a group of manufacturers to produce 20,000 units for Cottage. Bothman, a Nanoscientist who previously taught mechanical engineering design and manufacturing, was leading efforts to create face shields using his lab’s 3D printers and other equipment, with designs approved by Cottage Hospital. After learning more about what MOXI and Foundation were doing, the maker groups at UCSB realized there was an opportunity to help other organizations throughout the county.
“We had been focused on Cottage Hospital’s needs and hadn’t really thought beyond the South County area. Stephanie had been in touch with North County hospitals, other health care providers, and senior living institutions that also needed materials,” said Bothman. “Our lab and MOXI received a big donation of face shields from Craig Hawker, who’s a professor at UCSB, his wife Athena Philippides, and Dean and Darcy Crystal. They purchased those and had them shipped to Santa Barbara for distribution at UCSB, and throughout the county through the Foundation. Meanwhile, Dave Tanner at Boone Graphics figured out a way to use their equipment to create a different type of shield than the ones we were producing, and contributed some of those. It’s been a real community effort.”
“UCSB’s focus has evolved from Cottage to the whole county, from small producers to big producers. From my perspective as someone who builds things, the missing piece in all this initially was the organization to figure out who needs what. Eric MacFarland, Stephanie Roberson, and the Santa Barbara Foundation really stepped in to fill that role, which allowed the people who make things to focus on that.”
Bucket Brigade Answers the Call
Collaboration was also an important factor in sourcing materials for PPE. Since the pandemic hit the US, individuals and corporations around the country have started stockpiling 3D printing supplies. It soon became incredibly difficult to find materials online, and when they were located, materials were extremely expensive. When MOXI ran out of the material for the 3D printer, the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade stepped in to help. Not only did they have the materials and were willing to share, some of their volunteers also helped MOXI with assembling the final batch of face shields.
Like MOXI, the Bucket Brigade has also reached out to its network to contribute to the COVID-19 response efforts in our community. They mobilized volunteers to create cloth face coverings and rallied individuals with 3D printers to make face shields.
“The core idea of the Bucket Bridge is that we are a local resilience capacity building organization. Resilience is about responding with agency to whatever happens. In January 2018, the crisis was mud and damaged homes. We crowdsourced solutions to the cleanup operations as a way to build community, solidarity and resilience,” explained J. Abraham Powell, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade. “In the case of COVID-19, what became clear right away was that everyone was going to need to wear face coverings to protect each other. And some would need to wear face shields. We decided that these were things that volunteers could create.”
The Bucket Brigade currently has over 300 volunteers, who have dedicated their time to sew more than 12,000 cloth face coverings. To make production as easy as possible, Brigade volunteers deliver cloth, elastic and thread, free of charge, to the sewers and when the coverings are complete, they pick them up, wash them and deliver to those in need.
Their Face Shield program is essentially the mirror image of this. “Instead of 300 people sewing, we have 30 people with 3D printers. Instead of bringing them fabric and thread, we bring them filament and a code for their printer so they can create the visors that we want. We pick those up and assemble the visors with clear plastic shields and a headband at our “pandemic headquarters,” which happens to be the Montecito Public Library,” said Powell.
One special group of volunteers that are helping cut cloth for the Bucket Brigade, and have helped with assembling PPE for MOXI, are 22 inmates at the Santa Barbara County Jail. In mid-March, these inmates approach Deirdre Smith, Inmate Services Manager for the Santa Barbara County Sherriff’s Office, and expressed their interest in doing something to help their community. Around the same time, the Bucket Brigade reached out to see if they were in need of PPE and cloth face coverings, and Smith was able to find an opportunity for the inmates to volunteer cutting the cloth for the organization. The Bucket Brigade also provided face coverings for all inmates and staff, including face shields for their medical and food personnel. Since April, the inmates have prepared 4,000 yards of cloth to be made into masks for the Bucket Brigade.
Smith also connected with the Foundation and was able to provide inmates with another hands-on opportunity to help – this time assembling face shields.
“This project was meaningful because it gave the incarcerated individuals in the Sheriff’s Treatment Program/Success Stories Program an opportunity to step outside the criminal identities that they carry the stigma of, and step into the role of servant leaders who are so eager to give back to their community. It was gratifying to witness this transformation as the men were diligently working to provide this much-needed PPE to medical providers in Santa Barbara County,” said Smith.
“It was a very easy collaboration with MOXI to facilitate the production of the PPE. We were provided with donated materials that the men were able to transform into the completed face shields within days of getting the supplies,” shared Smith. “It is unusual for opportunities for community service to come behind the walls of a jail, but MOXI was willing to give these incarcerated individuals a chance to benefit their community from behind bars.”
“Being able to participate in this project making face shields was meaningful because it gave us the opportunity to not only possibly save lives, but to show the world that we are so much more than our worst decisions. Serving our community in this way is super gratifying and it gives us and possibly others a new perspective on who we are as people,” said Roy Duran Jr., an inmate at the jail. “The message that we want to send is one of hope – we will get through this pandemic together.”
“Collaboration has been key. MOXI certainly couldn’t have done this alone,” said Gose. “We couldn’t have made such a large impact without the Foundation and other makers in the community. Our team made 400 face shields, but all together as a community we made 11,000 pieces.
“It’s all about the resiliency, finding what we can do as a community and what our collective strengths are, and then stepping up to be there in the time of need.”
This is what #StrongerTogether805 is all about – our community coming together to build a stronger future. Thank you to MOXI, UCSB, Bucket Brigade, and all the wonderful organizations that are making PPE for our communities.