Robert McGinnis is a 35-year Ann Arbor resident, trained engineer, and account manager for a local software company. But McGinnis is now also giving countless time and money as a prominent member of “Operation Face Shield — Ann Arbor,” a caring group that prints 3-D parts to put together face shields, disinfects them and delivers them to where they are needed the most.
“We think there are about 500 people printing face shields,” McGinnis says. “More people sign up every day and many are delivering outside of our network. We are working on setting up building and distribution sites in Detroit, Traverse City, and any other location that has a high demand.”
The group “Operation Face Shield—Ann Arbor” includes Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) students, teachers, parents, medical professionals, engineers, academics, and many more — all committed to protecting our frontline medical and essential workers. Furthermore, they also have support and input from universities such as U-M, MSU, and other Michigan colleges. Members of the organization are not just from Ann Arbor, but also in Plymouth, Canton, Brighton, Chelsea, Dexter, and other areas as well. There are about 1,000 people who are a part of their Facebook group.
McGinnis would formerly spend his volunteer hours with the Skyline Robotics Team as a mentor, but at present he and his family (like others in the group) are dedicated to providing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to medical professionals and essential workers, specifically making 3-D printed face shields.
“The idea started with Ian Steiner and his family,” McGinnis says. “Ian is a member of the FIRST Robotics team at Skyline High School where I am a mentor. He suggested starting this project. I told him most hospitals were not asking for the shields and did not seem like a good use of 3-D printers. He ignored my advice and asked the schools to free up the printers and modified a CAD model to start printing. About ten AAPS teachers picked up the printers and started printing. The company Maker Works has also put a great deal of effort into producing and distributing these masks. Several community members—specifically Kevin Lesser and Becky Cherney—ran with the project and now we are delivering over 700 face shields every day.”
Kevin Lesser and Becky Cherney are other prominent members of the group who are both nurses. Cherney is currently working 12-hour days with Covid-19 patients, and she is volunteering 12-15 hour days with “Operation Face Shield,” getting PPE to healthcare workers and essential workers, and coordinating all efforts of the group. It has been said that Cherney’s work ethic and dedication are only rivaled by her huge heart.
McGinnis said the group has produced about 10,000 shields total thus far.
“They (the shields) are being given to U-M, Saint Joe’s, Beaumont Hospitals, HVA, homeless shelters,” explains McGinnis. “We even have a volunteer with a small plane that has delivered to Philadelphia, Indiana, and Traverse City.”
The main drop-off area is now outside the Ann Arbor Distillery, which is allowing the organization to pitch a tent, place their recreational vehicle, house bleach barrels, and have other important components for their efforts. Prior to being at Ann Arbor Distillery, the group worked in the front yard of the home of one of the members in the Water Hill neighborhood. They needed to move their operation from Water Hill because of how ramped up their production became.
“All delivered parts are soaked in a bleach solution,” says McGinnis. “People building and delivering the shields wear face masks and gloves. We have several members from the health community who provide best practices for delivering these products. We make it clear that the masks are clean and disinfected, but not sterilized.”
McGinnis says the design for the face shield is relatively simple.
“There is a 3-D printed headband and a clear face shield which is cut from a standard transparency page,” he describes.
He added that the feedback and appreciation people are showing have been positive and relentless.
“It (the feedback) is overwhelming,” McGinnis says. “Our Facebook group has several posts a day from nurses, first responders, and retail employees who appreciate receiving shields. Many hospitals and nursing homes are asking for several hundred shields at a time.”
Here is one post of gratitude from an Emergency Room RN:
“When I left work yesterday after a few days in a row, I was physically and emotionally exhausted with a whopper of a headache from my mask pulling on my ears all day. When I pulled up to pick up about 100 face shields for both my and my husbands’ work families, I felt everything melt away. All the stress, the anxiety and heartbreak and the physical pain were all muted because I felt so surrounded by love and compassion. I was met with a beautiful group of people who don’t even know me but care about me, my family, my coworkers and our safety. I was able to see people come and drop off their contributions to this cause and it gave me peace to know that strangers are working to protect us when we feel so alone sometimes in this fight. I was able to forget about the heartbreaking isolation and spend a few minutes with some beautiful, happy children asking about their masks and favorite super hero. As I drove away crying, I needed to make sure you all know what impact you all have on us as front line providers. I want to personally thank each of you for EVERYTHING and ANYTHING you are doing to support those of us on the front lines, in any capacity. Just knowing people are thinking about us and concerned with our safety means as much as the physical protection you have all provided. Thank you all, for helping my husband and me, as well as our colleagues, to stay safe and give us an even better chance of making it home safe to our own families and staying healthy to provide care to those in need for another day.
Donna’s Story/Full Disclosure
Bob McGinnis is my husband and we have been married since 1996. The 3-D printers are working in our home almost 24-hours a day, and my son, who is also on the Skyline Robotics Team, and I have helped with whatever is needed to facilitate printing more shields, such as monitoring the printers. (My primary job is as an online teacher.) I am very proud of my husband, my son, and the entire group. I chose to write this article to bring awareness so other people can get involved or can help in any other way. I have also devoted my journalism work during this time to write articles that help with the coronavirus crisis.
But the greatest heroes in this story are the frontline medical workers who put the needs of their patients before their own and their families to help heal others. They literally risk their own lives every day to save the lives of others. They work in emergency situations under great stress and hardship, putting themselves in an environment with the greatest probability of being exposed to the virus. The least we can do is to provide these medical and essential workers with all the PPE they need.
Here are resources to help:
A link to Ann Arbor Sewing Center to create masks
A link for “Operation Face Shield” to help: Protect-MI