Made in the Northwest: Gizmo CDA making face masks and face shields

Gizmo CDA
A member of Gizmo CDA uses a water jet to cut vinyl used for making face shields.

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – Gizmo is a makerspace located on the campus of North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene. But these days, it’s much more than that.

Executive director Barbara Mueller says when the coronavirus pandemic began, “It was obvious that the people who were involved in Gizmo wanted to do something purposeful.”

The Panhandle Health District told Mueller there was a need for cloth masks and face shields, so Gizmo’s members got right to work.

“We were able to come together, create a design, iterate a design, iterate the manufacturing of the design and be able to produce thousands of shields and face masks,” said Mueller.

Sewing face masks might be an easier task than what Gizmo is accustomed to, but Mueller says it’s helped its members come together.

“It also allowed us to be able to break it down and involve other people that normally would not be involved in something like this in a makerspace.”

Gizmo is using its water jet machine to cut the vinyl for its face shields. It’s also adding closed foam to protect the user from the plastic forehead band.

“This has comfort to it, so even though it’s pressing against your head, you’re shielded from that plastic against your head,” explained Mueller. “And you can wear it all day long and not worry about it.”

Gizmo even figured out a way to quickly make N-95 masks using a vacuum forming machine.

“We’re getting ready to be able to vacuum form 20 or 40 of them at a time and that time is like five minutes.”

And the makerspace is already making the rounds, delivering its products in Coeur d’Alene and beyond.

“We’ve done Heritage Health. We’ve done the health center in Plummer. We’ve done all kinds of stuff in Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint,” said Mueller.

It also plans to starting delivering in Spokane in the near future.

Its members find the work exhausting, but gratifying. So Mueller says Gizmo won’t be stopping anytime soon.

“We will be here for however long it takes to help our community be safe.”