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FIRST in Michigan volunteers challenge others to do good

Gail Alpert knew that Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, was in short supply in her home state of Michigan. As a Regional Director for FIRST® and a FIRST® Robotics Competition volunteer, she saw many FIRST teams and team sponsors using 3D printers and other equipment to make PPE to donate to health and safety services. Other teams wanted to know how to make PPE and put their equipment to use. So Gail assembled a team of volunteers and launched the FIRST in Michigan 1 Million PPE Challenge to bring the Michigan FIRST community together for a common good. FIRST in Michigan would challenge teams to donate a total of one million face shields, face masks, and safety glasses to hospitals, first responders, and others on the front lines. Eric and Lisa w dog crop

Two fellow FIRST volunteers, Lisa and Eric Savage, jumped in to help organize vetted PPE designs and hospital needs and create a website. Lisa put together PPE designs required by hospitals while Eric began building the website. They wanted to track goals and PPE contributions from teams, sponsors, and organizations. Most existing web templates were for monetary contributions, not physical items, so they had to build the website from scratch. It took ten days to put together. 

As they neared completion of the website, Gail engaged Nolan Kuza, a high school junior, to do design work and ensure it was consistent with FIRST in Michigan branding. The volunteers pulled everything together and launched the website the week of April 6.

The 1 Million PPE Challenge website provides a place for all teams at all levels to set goals and track the number of items they donate. They can also learn what hospitals and other organizations need. Lisa organizes groups of volunteers to call the hospitals every few days to determine their needs. You can find a list of the items each hospital is willing to accept linked on the website, as well as their preferred designs. Since the 1 Million PPE Challenge site went live, it has already collected over 27,000 donations of PPE.

Gail says what they love about the challenge is that students are getting to put into action all the skills they learn in FIRST. Taking a design file for a single element, configuring the design for mass production, and making efficient use of the product are real-world applications of those skills.

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