Fabricating face shields to protect frontline workers

Editor’s note: Beyond the Call is a new section in Around the O Workplace that highlights the exceptional work of UO employees during COVID-19. Each story features an interview with one employee, in his or her own words, with light editing for clarity and length only.

Geordi Helmick Interview
Student Shop Manager, Scientific Instrument Fabrication and Engineering Shop  
2020 BFA in Art and Technology 2020

How long have you worked at the UO?

I started as a student worker about two years ago and then a little over a year ago I moved into the shop manager position.

Tell us about your work:

We make parts for the different research labs on campus and also do work for art professors and off-campus customers. We mostly make a lot of stuff out of metal and do wrought ironing and soldering. Our Bridgeport mill requires a lot of precision so we have to stand there and hand turn knobs. We also have a water jet cutter and I got to go to Kent, Wash., to be trained on it in December. It was my first ever work trip.

What does your workday look like during COVID-19?

Every day things are a little different. Usually, graduate students and professors walk in as I'm working on a project and I help them find or design a part. That's what I love about working here. It's not like I just come in and drill the same holes over and over. We're always working with different materials, different designs and solving problems.

A couple weeks into the pandemic, I joined a Facebook group where they were talking about 3D printing face shields and I started thinking, “What can we do with our machines here to make PPE?” So, we all put our heads together and our team designed face shields on the water jet out of polycarbonate and we made almost 2,000 of them and got them out to the community. That was a really awesome experience.

What is keeping you motivated during this challenging time?

I feel so fortunate to still be able to work. Seeing so many people who are stuck at home, I really am lucky to still have income, still have a place to be, and not be stuck in my home. I love all the people I work with, so it's great to still get to see their faces and interact with other humans.

When we were making the face shields there was an extra sense of importance to what we were doing. I was directly in contact with a lot of the health providers and worked with them to distribute the face shields. Seeing their faces when we were distributing them was super impactful.

Geordi is part of the UO Scientific Instrument Fabrication and Engineering Shop. Read more about her work producing face shields on the College of Design’s website.

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