This story was originally published on the St. Paul's website on April 20, 2020.
In recent weeks St. Paul’s staff have learned about several alumni and friends working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and others who have rolled up their sleeves in the face of uncertainty, to do their parts to help minimize impacts and disruption. We know there are many others out there and on behalf of the entire College community, thank you all for the great work you are doing.
Like so many Waterloo grads, Cameron Turner (BMath ’02) is a community builder and a doer. Turner, who met his wife Tanya Morose (BSC ’02, MSC ’07) while living at St. Paul’s for two years beginning in fall of 1997, has previously founded a tech company, helped to launch a maker space studio at THEMUSEUM and now runs a mobile maker space company called Tinker Truck.
Tinker Truck specializes in educational events for school trips, corporate groups and kids’ camps, none of which would be possible during a period of social distancing. Uncertain of what to do with the cancellations piling up, Turner reached out to Jeremy Hedges, president and founder of InkSmith, a Kitchener-based educational technology startup that sells 3D printers, laser cutters, robotics kits and other products for use in education. Turner was aware InkSmith was planning to begin assembling community-sourced 3D printed parts to make personal protective equipment (PPE) in response to the pandemic and offered to help.
Turner first met Hedges in 2015 through Communitech and they continued to collaborate on programs that taught 3D printing and modelling and robotics in local schools. Within days of hearing about InkSmith’s plans, Turner had joined them to help with a rapid pivot and scale-up to begin producing The Canadian Shield, a proprietary, reusable and recyclable clear plastic face shield approved by Health Canada for healthcare workers.
Turner explained, “in all the years I’ve known Jeremy, and in every interaction since meeting him, he’s always been a doer and has never let a problem go unsolved. This pandemic was no different. His employees are the same. The speed, determination and passion I see in them all is amazing right now.”
“Yesterday, a new employee told me that in the numerous years he has been working on an assembly line, he has never been so passionate nor seen so much passion and dedication for the work that the company is doing. Everyone knows they are making a difference.”
For the Canadian Shield, Turner’s work with the company has involved mentoring the company’s existing nine employees and helping hire dozens more in the first few weeks. He is also responsible for coordinating the continuing volunteer efforts for The Community Shield, a crowd-sourced face shield for other essential workers that are typically not in need of PPE such as midwives, community kitchens, various shelters, grocery store personnel and food services employees. Of course, doctors, nurses, lab technicians and other health-care workers are using them too.
“Basically, Jeremy put out a call to everyone in Ontario who had a 3D printer and over the last few weeks, they have volunteered their time and printer filament to help. They are not being paid to do this, and InkSmith is not controlling this, but we are coordinating the effort and we are telling them how to print specific parts,” explains Turner.
The volunteers supporting the production of The Community Shield are using a model developed in the Czech Republic by a company called Prusa Research. The design was chosen by Jeremy’s team alongside advice from Dr. Neil Naik, president of the Kitchener-Waterloo Academy of Medicine. Through a new partnership, volunteers at a local makerspace called kwartzlab are now cutting, cleaning, sanitizing, sorting and packing this protective equipment to meet similar standards as those used at InkSmith. Through this partnership, InkSmith and kwartzlab have already created and distributed 22,000 face shields.
On the other side of things, Turner’s wife Tanya Morose has been working at the Public Services Health and Safety Association, helping to brace public service workers for the pandemic from the very beginning. Currently, her role as a Manager of the Public Safety Unit leads a team of professionals who support fire, police, corrections and paramedics by providing the ever-evolving health and safety resources they need to perform their roles during the crisis.
By the end of the week following March break, she realized how much her and her husband’s professional worlds had collided.
“It is fascinating how two completely different careers have come to the same issue. Our jobs are now constantly intertwining. When Cameron hires someone, I can make sure he knows what updated occupational health and safety resources they need in their growing business,” explained Morose.