May 13, 2020

Green Masks: Fulbright Alumnus Flattens the Curve Through 3D Printing and Recycling

Elvis Rivera, a 2018 Fulbright Program alumnus,is not only a leader in his local community of Cucuyagua, Copan, but also in all of Honduras! As the coronavirus pandemic has spread throughout his city and nation, Rivera realized that he had the ability to make a positive impact -- and that’s exactly what he is doing. 

During his Fulbright exchange program at Syracuse University in Georgia, Rivera had the opportunity to visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and participate in conferences with leaders in the field of epidemiology such as Dr. William Goege, who helped eradicate smallpox. Rivera was inspired by listening to Dr. Foege  and after reading Dr. Foege’s book, “House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox Rivera knew that one day he wanted to be able to contribute in a similar way. 

"Feeling part of a project as big as Fulbright and Dr. Foege's words, ‘Home is not where you come from, home is where you are needed.’  has always motivated me to do my best. His willingness to risk his life are lessons in humility, his project is considered the most successful example of eradicating an epidemic as painful as smallpox. Thinking about it inspires me to continue to focus on what's truly transcendental, and as a science teacher and with the support of technology I am quite satisfied to contribute even with very small actions,” Rivera said. 

During his Fulbright exchange experience, Rivera was able to network with various individuals and organizations in the healthcare industry within the United States. He is now using these international connections to request donations and equipment for the public high school where he works as a science teacher. This equipment is now being used as a part of the experiment he is conducting to create face masks and protective gear via 3D printing. The masks he is printing abide by NIH DtM v3.1 3D printed face masks specifications. 

His project goes beyond helping provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers in Honduras. The transparent/plastic components of the face masks are made from recycled PET plastic soda bottles, which Rivera says have proven to be more effective. His sister helps with the collection, cleaning and removing labels and glue from the bottles, cutting bottles according to visor dimensions and polishing for final use. 

Rivera’s efforts to recycle these bottles into PPE has helped educate his community about how to properly dispose of and recycle bottles. After ongoing outreach efforts to get the word out to his community, people are now dropping off their used bottles at Rivera’s house to contribute towards creating new PPE.

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