Student employs his 3D printer to fight COVID-19

Derek Calvello of Strayer Middle School is creating personal protective equipment for medical facilities, nursing homes, families and friends.
Posted on 05/05/2020
Derek Calvello, standing next to his 3D printer, holds a face shield he made.By Gary Weckselblatt

Though only 12 years of age, Derek Calvello has shown both an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to help others.

The Strayer Middle School 7th grader is known for selling snowcones in his neighborhood and has gumball machines in several Quakertown businesses. Last year he created items to sell to raise money for a teacher battling cancer.

Now, with the life-threatening coronavirus gripping the United States and the world, Derek is using his personal 3D printer to make personal protective equipment, commonly known as PPE, for medical facilities, nursing homes, families and friends. He’s created face shields, facemasks, and straps for both.

“It feels good helping people,” said Derek, who plans to study engineering and continue building his business acumen as he advances to Quakertown Community High School and college.

Bruce Russell, one of Derek’s teachers, has the prodigy during homeroom, math, reading and resource periods. In an online discussion, Mr. Russell often asks his students how they’re doing. That’s when Derek shared his 3D work with the class.

“We spend so much time talking about what kids are doing on technology, how many games they’re playing,” Mr. Russell said. “There’s a whole world of technology out there. This is a great use of technology, to do something for the common good.

“Derek is a great example of showing what kids can do if they think about ways they can help out. You can’t say you’re not old enough. Derek is 12 and he’s proof you can make a huge impact.”

Derek, who researched and downloaded an app to make the PPE, has distributed his products free of charge to St. Luke’s and Lehigh Valley Hospitals.

Erin Sweet, one of his neighbors, is a critical care nurse at Lehigh Valley Hospital. “Derek is just so innovative,” she said. “He offered to make me face shields and I jumped on the idea. He kept on making more and more. He would text me, how many do you need? We really appreciate it. It’s inspiring that he’s thinking of what he can do for others.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.
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