SAN JOSE (KPIX) - A Bay Area college student who saw an urgent need during the pandemic has created a solution in his garage.
San Jose State University senior Brenden Pragasam started making face shields in his garage to protect his relatives and friends from COVID-19.
Then a phone call changed everything.
"And I was like, 'Hello?' And they're like, 'Yeah, this is Stanford. Uh, we need about 300 face shields, we heard that you make them,'" remembered Pragasam. "I'm like, 'Okay.' So that's when it all started."
The industrial design major has given away hundreds of face shields for free to protect frontline workers at Bay Area hospitals and community groups.
Working with UCSF, he changed his design to make the shields lighter and more flexible for hospital use.
Pragasam is also making face shields for children with special needs."
With his parents, he co-founded InFuse, a San Jose nonprofit supporting kids and adults with different abilities, so he understands they often need more durable equipment.
"They try to, you know, flex it or like tear it off. And then some face shields will just be like, 'Time to get a new one,' because they cracked it in half," Pragasam explained.
Thirty face shields went to Friends of Children with Special Needs, which serves adults with disabilities.
Program manager Annabelle Foz is grateful.
"I think it's a labor of love because it's handmade," Foz said of the face shield. "And I think he really made the design easy and comfortable for others."
Pauline Vincent agrees. Her 12-year-old son kept the shield on during their cross-country plane trip to a medical appointment.
"The shields really helped. We felt so safe," Vincent said.
Each shield takes more than two hours to produce using 3D printers and materials funded by donations from InFuse.
Now the college student is taking orders from schools, and reflecting on the journey.
"I think it's taught me that one person can make a huge difference if they make that first step," he concluded.
So for designing and distributing free face shields this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Brenden Pragasam.
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