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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Avondale Hackerspace Volunteers Make More Than 4,500 Face Shields For Essential Workers

"The fact that we had so many people who were desperate for anything to protect them against getting infected just cried out for whatever help anyone could lend."

A rotating group of six to eight Pumping Station: One volunteers are making the face shields.
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AVONDALE — A group of creatives who use the hackerspace Pumping Station: One are putting their problem-solving skills to good use amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the last several weeks, a rotating group of about eight volunteers has made more than 4,500 face shields using the facility’s 3D printers. They’ve distributed the protective equipment to essential health care workers battling coronavirus on the front lines, including those at Swedish Hospital.

Pumping Station: One is an 11,000-square-foot hackerspace at 3519 N. Elston Ave. with more than 400 members. The facility was shut down along with all other non-essential businesses in the state after the stay at home order was enacted in March.

The people who use Pumping Station: One — a mix of web developers, carpenters, seamstresses, artists and other creative professionals — were looking for a way to help essential workers and use the space when the pandemic took hold, which is when they landed on making face shields.

“The fact that we had so many people who were desperate for anything to protect them against getting infected just cried out for whatever help anyone could lend,” said Andrew Morris, a Pumping Station member whose role is to tend to the building.

Morris, whose full-time job is in engineering at ComEd, said the people making the face shields have taken turns firing up the 3D printer and finishing the bands. The face shields are made with a transparency sheet with a three-hole punch.

Many of the people who use the hackerspace are creative problem-solvers, which lends itself to this sort of project, Morris said.

Mostly, though, the group is made up of people “searching for some way to do good,” he said.

Some of the group members live in Avondale and others live in other parts of the city. One travels all the way from Indiana to contribute, Morris said.

“It’s enormously good to get out to a space like this and know that what I’m doing is really going to make a positive contribution toward relieving some of the problems we’re having,” Morris said.

Recently, the group has decided to pivot its production. Morris said the need for protective gear has gone down since the group started making face shields weeks ago and now the group is considering making cloth face masks with a laser cutter to make the production more efficient.

“Globally, the [personal protective equipment] crisis — there’s still short supplies. But from our corner of the world, we’ve managed to contribute quite a lot to filling the demand,” he said.

“The work goes on. We haven’t settled on what the next great project is going to be, but there’s still plenty of momentum in trying to fill the next niche that opens up.”

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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