In the latest Around Town column, news about a student group producing face shields through 3D printers and how you can help them; local Airbnb hosts doing their part during the crisis by renting their spaces for free to out-of-town health care workers and how residents are making noise for essential employees.
POWER OF THE PRINT ... MakeXPaloAlto, a group of Gunn and Palo Alto high school students, is doing its part in the effort to increase the supply of personal protective equipment by producing one critical item: face shields. First, the group downloads a template from Czech company Prusa Research to print two of the three parts to the shield: the bottom reinforcement that supports the actual shield and headband. They then open the file in a software program called Slicer, which produces a code read by the printer, which runs for about 12 hours. The group then sends the parts to MakerNexus. The Sunnyvale nonprofit laser cuts the third component — the actual shield — before assembling the shields and delivering them to the Valley Medical Center Foundation, which distributes the items to health care workers. Since late March, the group has 3D-printed parts for about 160 shields at Cubberley Community Center. Gunn High senior Yonatan Maor , who with a few other student members have printed parts from their own 3D printers at home, wanted to make one thing clear: "3D printing is the worst technology to be doing this with." The machines are meant for prototyping and hobbyists, not mass production, but "there's no other option at the moment," he said. "This highlights the importance of project-based education because in this environment ... we're still seeing things like makerspaces and student journalism programs and broadcast networks operating and doing really meaningful work," Maor said. Working with the community and other makerspaces, the group's goal is to produce 20,000 face masks. The group has recruited about a dozen Palo Altans to join the effort and is looking to build its numbers. "Hospitals won't operate if they don't have this. ... The fact that we have the capacity to do this, and we have the skills to make this (and it's) being used by people to actually save lives is pretty mind-blowing," Maor said. Learn more at makexpaloalto.org/covid-19.
AIRBNB ANGEL ... Even though the tourism industry is at a flatline and Airbnb hosts have taken a hit since the shelter-at-home order has gone into effect, it doesn't mean people don't need the extra living spaces. Tom O'Connor, who rents out his one bedroom, one bathroom accessory dwelling unit at his Midtown home — calling it a "pied-à-terre" on Airbnb — used to charge travelers $150 per night. But about a week ago, he opened up his unit for free. Within 15 minutes of sharing his offer online, O'Connor met a Sacramento-based nurse who was temporarily transferred to the VA Palo Alto Health Care System's Palo Alto facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working 12-hour shifts, the nurse didn't want to endure a six-hour commute. "She couldn't find a place in Palo Alto to stay," O'Connor said. "She called a couple places that she couldn't afford, so I just gave her my Airbnb." For O'Connor, the decision was simple. Since his unit was going to collect dust, why not offer it for free to a health care worker in need? "Health care workers, doctors, nurses — they're doing a dangerous job right now," he said. "Anything we can do to help them to stay — I think it's just a nice thing to do." Since then, more local Airbnb hosts have stepped up to offer their own spaces to essential workers. O'Connor has connected around four people to other Airbnb hosts. But that's not the only form philanthropy O'Connor has been involved with. An electrician by trade, he also has offered free services through his business, O'Connor & Son's Electric. The only condition? "As long as people give donations to the Ecumenical Hunger Program," he said. In just the past few weeks, he has donated around $4,000 to the East Palo Alto-based social services organization.
LET'S GET LOUD ... A new tradition has emerged in the Midtown neighborhood: a nightly applause for essential workers. Inspired by similar actions in Italy, her hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia and other parts of the globe, Palo Altan Sayona Freeman launched the tradition at 7 p.m., Wednesday. "The world is uniting and showing its gratitude in the best way we know how," she said. "We just want to thank those who are in the hospitals risking it all for humanity's well-being." The idea initially revolved around acknowledging workers at Stanford Health Care and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Since then, it has expanded to all essential employees. Freeman spread the word of her plan through Facebook groups and the social media app Nextdoor, encouraging people to clap, holler and bang some pots as a sign of appreciation every day at 7 p.m. "Half the joy is hearing and seeing your neighbors. It builds spirits in these tough times," she said. Freeman's call to neighbors was heard in College Terrace, where activist group the Raging Grannies banged pots to thank first responders at College Avenue and Cornell Street on Tuesday at 7 p.m. They plan to gather at the intersection every Tuesday night to show their support.
SPREAD POSITIVE VIBES ... As the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold at home and around the world, we want to share positive stories from our readers for upcoming Around Town columns. Have you witnessed a random act of kindness or watched the community form bonds while maintaining a safe social distance? Or have you seen a creative project come about as many stay at home? Send us your story in 250 words or fewer by email to email@example.com. Photos are also welcome. We look forward to hearing your stories!
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.