Making A Difference In A Time Of Crisis

A Letter From Executive Director Devra Sisitsky

March 31, 2020

To Our Valued Maker Community:

Your support of MakerspaceCT has made us strong and agile; our makers are making a difference none imagined, even just two weeks ago! I am writing to say, “Thank you!”

For all of you who have supported us through the years, I remember each and every one of you! Every action you’ve taken throughout the last 5 years has prepared us for this moment – from your donations, business advice, board work, membership and most importantly – as our champions.
In the middle of the current coronavirus crisis, the extraordinary dedication of our staff and members to making, innovating, and collaborating is making a difference to the City of Hartford Fire Department, EMTs, and Emergency Department Physicians… and it’s just the beginning.

First, here is what we are doing during this crisis…

What began as an evening Google Hangout web call of seven, quickly became a grassroots effort involving staff, members, friends and family alike. The production of testing booths, masks, and shields were considered. The decision was made to produce face shields. On a call with biomedical, IT and mechanical engineers as well as an industrial designer, we selected a design utilizing 3D printing. Our Operations Officer, also an Industrial Designer evaluated the materials and process. Based on his expertise, he suggested an alternate process, using existing materials, to expedite production. We then began to produce 3D headbands for the shield while we sourced materials for the second (non-3D printed) build.

With a prototype in hand, I contacted several hospitals, the Department of Health and Human Services, Emergency Management Services, the State Procurement Office, Mayor’s Office and more to see where we could help. Within just a few days, we received a request to produce hundreds of shields to support the Fire Departments and EMT’s in the City of Hartford. Simultaneously, Emergency Department physicians contacted us directly, urgently seeking PPE, with little to no funding for them, even if they could be found. With that in mind, we put up a donation page on our website for the funding: (a) to purchase materials, and (b) to request any PPE specific raw material donations. But we did not wait for funding to move forward.

Physicians are innovating at every moment. We are working with one hospital group testing the efficacy of utilizing an alternate mask filter while the gold standard N95 masks are un-sourceable. Through our manufacturing contacts, we are working with a parachute company to potentially produce this mask, as well as helping them to recreate patterns for biohazard suits and robes. This is currently in preparation for production.

Another hospital group located tens of thousands of masks that were set aside due to their design which made the mask difficult to keep affixed. A physician created a frame aimed at keeping the mask in place. Our team suggested some improved design elements and are now establishing 3D build times for potential production.

Our dedicated and growing team – our family, our friends, and you.

Our team is assembling every 3D printer available. We continue to source critical raw materials in every way possible. We were able to locate raw products on a network website a few states away just as we received word that our traditional delivery of the same material was delayed almost one week. At that very moment, a family member traveling back from her manufacturing facility readily agreed to divert her trip to pick up the materials. Within three hours she delivered the materials to MakerspaceCT. 

Our Operations Officer is assisting with product designs, sourcing of materials and creating production systems. He never waivers from the challenges I give him, and his brilliance and resourcefulness continue to inspire awe in all of us.

Our Shop Manager is dedicated to safe protocols for all involved and keeps us all in check for a clean, expedient and prudent assembly of PPE. He is diligent about sanitizing our facility; I am grateful for his vigilance.

Our Director of Digital Media is managing every communication, from members, media and staff. He is our registrar, writing copy, letters and thinking of every contingency to keep things running smoothly. After hours, you can find him assembling 3D printers with his family.

Our Education Director is simultaneously converting curriculum and instructors’ presentations all online for the immediate future while assembling 3D printers with our Additive Manager. Thank goodness the Education Director has a software patent on remotely ejecting 3D prints and re-engaging the print queues on multiple machines! We are going to need that.

Our Resource Administrator is communicating with all of our existing and prospective grants to rewrite our future. She is working closely with our staff, transferring work online and ensuring that we have the proper equipment to support our students.

Our Additive Manufacturing Manager is hard at work creating our new curriculum and transitioning to online. His expertise has been critical when analyzing potential products to support this crisis, print materials and printer assembly.

Our Chief Administrator is managing the business of HR and bookkeeping. She has facilitated the application of our SBA loan and is managing all our State and Federal support opportunities to keep MakerspaceCT running. She is the most organized fine artist I have ever worked with and is the critical infrastructure to MakerspaceCT.

Last, but not least, our Volunteer leaders are coordinating groups of makers at home to add to the efforts in the 3D assembly and delivery. The volunteers include our members, as well as other people in the community who have stepped up to help.  

The Bottom Line…

I thought we had a great team before. Yet, now in this time of great crisis, it is abundantly clear to me that we are a well-oiled machine… operating fluidly even with the demands of warp-speed innovation! Here’s what I know: makers are innately resourceful; they can look at a product or problem and craft solutions from virtually thin air. They are unorthodox and brilliant.

Before DOD had given the directive to large companies to manufacture critical equipment before FEMA had pledged to pay for materials and labor, makers were already working on plans to create solutions — behind the scenes at large companies, in basement labs, and in workshops, these folks began working to save lives with their innovations. You won’t hear about it from them because they get their joy from the next design improvement or supply chain wonder. 

MakerspaceCT wouldn’t be here to accomplish this without you. We are profoundly grateful and feel privileged to help in this moment. MakerspaceCT is pushing forward to sustain our healthcare workers and first responders. We are the makers.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions.

All my best and stay safe!

Devra Lee Sisitsky
Executive Director
960 Main Street
Hartford, Ct 06103
860 833-5465

The headquarters for the Maker Movement in Connecticut. 

Our mission is to positively impact lives by enabling access, innovation, and education.

Location: 960 Main St, Hartford, CT

Main Entrance: 36 Talcott St, Hartford CT (Get Directions)

Operating Hours:
We are operating at reduced capacity for July – Aug 2022. 

New Operating Hours (starting 7/22): Fri: 10am-9pm / Sat: 10am-6pm / Sun – Thurs: CLOSED

IN CASE OF INCLEMENT WEATHER: Check our website homepage or Facebook and Twitter for updates for possible changes to our hours of operation.

Holiday schedule:

Wed, Nov 23, 2022: Closing at 5:00 p.m.
Sat, Dec 24, 2022: Closing at 5:00 p.m.
Sat, Dec 31, 2022: Closing at 5:00 p.m.

MakerspaceCT is a program of McEIVR, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

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