Student employs his 3D printer to fight COVID-19

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.”