HOUSTON – From fashion designers to self-taught sewers, manufacturers to tinkerers, makers of all sorts are pitching in to address a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment. Now, a team of Houston educators are among those stepping into the breach.
As Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner calls on individuals and businesses to donate much-needed personal protective gear, Mehmet Gokcek, an engineering and technology curriculum coordinator with Harmony Public Schools Innovation Lab, and a group of his colleagues are rushing to produce face shields and medical supplies for Houston-area health-care workers and first responders on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19.
Gokcek said he remembers reading alarming accounts of crowded hospitals, overburdened healthcare workers and medical supply shortages in Italy.
“The first time we started hearing the news about the pandemic going crazy in Italy,” Gokcek said, “it was just unimaginable to think that a similar level of crisis could happen in the United States since we are thousands and thousands of miles away, but once we started hearing news about the confirmed cases in the United States it just started becoming this reality and it just became more real every day.”
Gokcek knew he and his colleagues had the resources to help combat any local shortages that could arise as cases in the area increased and after about two days researching and designing, the group printed a face-shield prototype using a 3-D printer.
“I just felt helpless sitting at home just praying things don’t get worse than they already are,” Gokcek said.”Once we started prototyping, producing, delivering, and I can speak for my colleagues as well, it just gave us this empowerment of being able to contribute to the fight.”
Enthused with their ingenuity, Harmony officials gave the team carte blanche to manufacture more protective medical gear and equipment. Within a couple days, the team had cranked out 44 plastic face shields, which they’ve since donated to Harris County.