What started as a hobby for a Suncor employee turned into protecting front-line health care workers in Sarnia, Ont. as they provide care to those infected with COVID-19.

A few years ago, Gerry Cadotte purchased a laser cutter with plans to start a small business. While the business never took off, he still made use of it to make wedding favours for his brother, wooden house signs and countless arts and crafts projects for his family.

Hearing the news about a shortage of personal protective equipment in hospitals, like masks and face shields, he decided to put his skills with the laser cutter to good use.

“I wanted to find a way to help that was in addition to staying home,” says Gerry, an electrical reliability specialist at Suncor’s Sarnia refinery. “So I started to do some research online. I was able to find an open source design out of Georgia Tech located in Atlanta that was made specifically for laser cutters.”

Close up of laser cutter

Finding success with the design, Gerry contacted Bluewater Health Foundation in Sarnia to see if they were interested in his homemade shields. The answer was an emphatic yes. Since then, Gerry has already delivered 28 shields, and the hospital has asked him to keep them coming.

“I have another 60 or so of the Plexiglas head bands completed and hope to have another 60 soon. It probably takes around five to six minutes to make and assemble a shield.”

He says hospital workers were really excited when he delivered the shields. “It felt great. I’m looking forward to completing more of them!”

And his next pandemic project?

“My wife just asked if I can use the laser cutter to cut cloth material if we need to start wearing masks. So, it looks like I’ll be joining some online sewing forums shortly.”