March. It came in like a lion and out like a lamb—being chased by a more terrifying lion. To manage the rapid spread of Covid-19, drastic changes happened quickly. None
of us were prepared. Even informed predictions can’t account for this, and we’re all left to accept uncertainty, it’s uncomfortable to say the least.
Yet through this, there have been stories of courage, leadership, innovation, and commitment to the greater good. Here in Forsyth County, we’re proud of our bedrock companies like HanesBrands for quickly pivoting to manufacture masks. We’re all exceptionally grateful for our healthcare systems, the nurses, the doctors, and everyone in this fight. As a nation, we’ve looked to our global brands to step in and
step up. According to tech news website, ZDNet, Apple and Tesla have engineered products to respond to new necessities during this pandemic.
So, you’d assume that an innovative design that facilitates rapid face shield production, or a prototype for a micro-sauna as an experimental treatment device would have come out of MIT or Johns Hopkins, right? Actually, these came from a small non-profit, called Mixxer, right here in Forsyth County.
Helmed by founder and Executive Director, Alan Shelton, Mixxer is a Community Makerspace, well equipped with tools and tech, and a community of innovators and creators. As such, Mixxer is uniquely positioned with talented minds and makers—many of whom have their own home equipment that is of particular service right now.
During the month from when Mixxer’s doors were closed, members mobilized remotely to share innovations and skills, and used their own expertise, equipment, materials, and funds to design more rapidly producible PPE. As of mid-April, the makers at Mixxer have provided medical professionals with:
• Hundreds of laser-cut face shields, and handed off the specs to manufacturers for mass production
• A few hundred more 3D-printed face shield frames
• Thousands of face mask clips
• And developed various medical treatment prototypes
These efforts have supported the personal safety of more than 2000 doctors, nurses, and critical workers in facilities across Wake Forest Baptist Health, Novant, Brenner Children’s Hospital, and Duke University Hospital to name a few. And members are delivering devices out of town and out of state as necessary where it is being requested.
Thankfully, there has been no shortage of collaboration. That’s where Mixxer’s Community Events Manager has taken the lead. Coordinating volunteers, sharing print files, finding tech support and working with both medical staff and volunteers for delivery. Casey Rinehart recalls, “After seeing the call to action on Facebook, I jumped on the chance to put my 3D printers to such important and beneficial work. After printing a few, I knew I could redesign it, making them faster and with less material.”
Member, Tony Oligmueller, has also been part of the group of around 20 who are keeping up with demand for mask clips and buckles. He says, “The new normal for healthcare workers is wearing masks for 8-12 hours a day, irritating their ears. As a retired police officer, I continue to have a strong desire to protect and serve others.”
Having started a hashtag, #mixxerfightscovid, there is now detailed information on their website wsmixxer.org about these projects.
Equally as important as the ongoing PPE production is the financial support. If you, someone you know, or your organization is in a position to donate, it would not only go to use right away, but also keep Mixxer’s doors open once it is safe. In addition to being a resource for local students, teachers and educators, Mixxer can provide skills training to people looking for new careers and affordable access to specialty tools, technology, and a diverse community of skilled makers with which to collaborate and learn from.
The resources Mixxer provides our community will be more important than ever as people begin to rebuild their lives post-pandemic.
Mixxer’s tagline is simple: “Make Stuff. Learn Stuff.” But the scope of what this small non-profit can provide is robust and far reaching, and hopefully with enough support, long lived.