All across the country, people are fighting the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We are all in this together. Mark Prohaska, a NextEra Energy employee, jumped into action when he saw a way to help.
Mark, a technology hobbyist, is using his 3D home printer to make personal protective equipment for nurses, doctors and emergency responders on the Treasure Coast.
“I start the printers up in the morning and they’ve been printing 17 hours a day; the printers keep going and going,” he said. “This all started about three weeks ago when I saw a need. Everything escalated from there because I have friends who are firefighters, EMTs and nurses.”
Mark initially delivered a couple of prototypes to a friend who is a registered nurse supervisor in a hospital medical ward. “She was super stoked to get them,” he added.
While Mark was waiting for hospital staff, including an infectious control specialist, to evaluate the face protection to approve its use, he was able to recruit seven more Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) employees to help produce the face shields, with a goal of producing 300 a week.
FPL’s External Affairs team saw an opportunity to make a larger impact in protecting medical workers by arranging to donate the shields to the T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society. The civic organization will distribute the shields to medical facilities in Palm Beach County. On April 13, 200 shields have been donated to them.
Mark is also working with a local fire chief who wants to try out the shields.
The 3D-printed shields and masks are not replacements for the N95 masks or hospital-issued equipment, but can be used in addition to the personal protective equipment as an extra layer of security and to extend the life of the N95 mask, Mark noted.
So far, he’s produced more than 225 shields and 10 face masks.
Mark is able to print out six shields every two hours, a level of production he would not be able to do without the support of his team. He was allowed to borrow one of the company’s 3D printers, which was sitting idle at the office while employees are working remotely, to add to his own.
Jenny Dudek, Mark’s supervisor, said she’s not surprised that Mark has taken on this effort.
“Mark is always thinking about how he can use technology to support not just his team but others around the organization to solve problems,” she said. “Being a creative problem solver and helping others just seems part of his inherent nature.”
Mark initially paid for everything himself and volunteers his time. When people heard about his project, they wanted to donate as a way to participate in the effort to help fight the pandemic, so Mark agreed to set up a donation site.
“Even if no one donated, I’d still do this,” Mark said.
“This really talks to the spirit of America … everyone helping where they can,” he said. “It reminds me of the efforts of citizens who helped with the World War II effort. We all have friends, family, spouses and children who are in this field, whether they are an EMT, nurse or doctor. This crisis helps remind us of what is important.”