Photo Credit Bruce Jones
Following the Culver model
April 16, 2020

Bruce Jones ’81 bought his son a Toybox 3D printer to use after he showed such an interest in the ones at the local library in Half Moon Bay, California. It was a chance to get six-year-old Zach interested in something scientific. But Jones never realized the machine may end up saving someone’s life.

 “We were looking online for a new toy to make,” Jones said. “And we came across this ventilator splitter.”

With the shortage of ventilators at different locations around the United States, Jones is now part of a nationwide Facebook group, COVID-19 3D Print, making plastic ventilator splitters and shipping them across the country. “We just shipped 500 to Mississippi,” he said. The Federal Emergency Management Administration has also shown some interest.

Jones said the volunteer group is using a “step-forward” leadership style that reminds him of Culver. It is also happening locally with a sewing collective making masks for healthcare workers that he helped organize.

From the legendary actions of the CMA cadets during the 1913 Logansport flood to smaller acts like a squad leader quickly stepping in to serve as a substitute Battery C guidon bearer after the original boy fainted during formal inspection, Jones believes it all speaks to someone being willing to quickly step forward when needed.

It takes 90 minutes for the printer to make one splitter.

The single-use splitters cost Jones approximately $1.66 each to make. He is donating the materials, though, because the cost is so low. When he first started, Jones supplied one area hospital with 60 splitters, which can only be used one time. Then another nearby institution asked for 70. He understands the splitters may not get used, but it is better than forcing medical personnel to make a decision on who gets a ventilator and who doesn’t.

It takes about 90 minutes to make one, Jones said, but his time is minimal. He removes the finished splitter from the printer “and I push the button to start it again.” About every 10th one has to be discarded because the machine has jammed, he added.

Because the Toybox printer is aimed at children, Jones said the plastic filament he uses includes in some interesting colors. There are red, blue, and bright green ones. There are some that even glow in the dark and others than turn different colors based on the temperature. They are approximately four inches long and 25-millimeters in diameter.

His involvement with the ventilator splitters came just a few days after Jones helped organize the Coastside Sewing Collective, a Facebook group of now 145 people with sewing machines. The group sews cloth masks and caps for the region’s healthcare workers.

As the need for masks started making headlines, Jones knew bringing individuals “with a sewing machine in their closet” together would be more efficient than people working individually. Using Facebook, the collective started recruiting members, sharing mask instructions and tips, exchanging material, and helping new members get up to speed.

Collective members drop their masks off at a local bookstore, he explained, where they are sorted and picked up for distribution. In the first week, the collective made 2,000 masks. Some collective members are now also making masks for the region’s farm workers, who must work in small clusters to bring the produce in from the surrounding fields.

For Jones, the two groups are simply following the Culver model: being pro-active, focusing on the need, building a community to solve it, then attacking the problem. All it takes is that one person willing to step forward.

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