Oakland Teacher Jeadi Vilchis Produces Face Shields for Essential Workers with 3D Printer

A smiling man carries a cardboard box filled with plastic face shields for Kaiser nurses. The cardboard box says "avocados" on it.
Jeadi Vilchis carries a box of face shields he made using a 3D printer and his own design. Photo by Amelia Greenland.

Jeadi Vilchis’ original intention as a teacher and a “maker” was “to help create more engineers coming out of Oakland,” he said, adding that, “I’m trying to get more girls of color into engineering, design and technology. As much as I can diversify those fields, and those students will be able to afford to live in those communities and not have to move to Antioch. There is not a good representation of people of color and women in technology.”  

About 10 years ago, Vilchis took an initial interest in the development of 3D printers, commenting that he “realized it was a really cool movement, doing a lot of DIY  (“do it yourself”) things, from jewelry to drones and robots, but I noticed it was happening more in affluent neighborhoods, and I wanted more kids in Oakland to learn about this.”   

At the time, he was teaching at Foothill College, and then left to help cultivate the “Maker Movement” in Oakland. An Oakland native himself, and 1999 graduate of Oakland High, he left to become a consultant in the Oakland Unified School District  “I didn’t take formal classes other than one 2-hour class on 3D printing and laser cutting. I was learning it on my own, getting myself access to maker spaces. I have a Makerspace at home as well as at McClymonds, Castlemont, Urban Promise Academy in OUSD, and Holy Names University.” He is classified as a consultant for the school district, often helping other teachers develop maker projects for their classes.

After the pandemic highlighted the shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), Vilchis realized had the tools, machinery, and, after a bit of experimentation, the know-how to produce protective shields for healthcare workers.

Through a friend of a friend who works at Kaiser Oakland ICU, he learned of a need for 50 laser-cut face shields. “I was trying to make my own, so I wanted to make a design that was sturdy to manufacture, but it took 56 minutes on the 3D printer which was too slow,” he said. He searched online and found a design for a laser cut face shield, but eventually realized he  couldn’t find anything that met his standards, so he decided to design his own. He made some prototypes, and soon produced 15 shields in 28 minutes, eventually producing 50 reusable face shields for Kaiser nurses.

A nurse wearing full protective gear in blue at Kaiser hospital. She is wearing a plastic faceshield.
Kaiser nurse Alida Outman wears one of Jeadi Vilchis’ laser cut face shields. Photo by Mirna Tapi.

Vilchis is now working on mass-producing face shields for nursing homes and similar facilities, funding this project with support from the David E. Glover Emerging Technology Center in Oakland, and a karaoke fundraiser he had in April.

Beyond the face shields, Vilchis plans to continue introducing OUSD high school students at McClymonds, Castlemont and Urban Promise Academy and adult school students to the “maker world,” as well as working with teachers across the curriculum to integrate laser cutter and 3D printer projects into all content areas, from mathematics to English literature, where students can create their own original designs or research ideas on such websites as thingiverse.com. 

Vilchis’s favorite projects include facilitation of participant-created “talking pieces” for a nationwide Restorative Justice conference in Oakland in 2018, supporting the 2019 Oakland Unified School District teachers’ strike, and teaching students how to make laser-cut products from earrings and keychains.

Going forward, he plans to continue creating PPE for the pandemic frontline and other workers, and creating furniture for maker spaces, for the maker spaces. At some point, he hopes to return to the class he had just started teaching an OUSD Adult Education Digital Manufacturing class when the COVID-19 shutdown the very hands-on class in mid-March.  

But for the moment, Vilchis continues to contribute to the health and well-being of the Oakland community through the protective shields.

Author Profile

Debora Gordon is a writer, artist, educator and non-violence activist. She has been living in Oakland since 1991, moving here to become a teacher in the Oakland Unified School District. In all of these roles, Debora is interested in developing a life of the mind. “As a mere human living in these simultaneously thrilling and troubled times,” Debora says, “I try to tread lightly, live thoughtfully, teach peace, and not take myself too seriously.”

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