High school junior Alex Rokkos was interested in 3D printing technology and how it can be applied to the medical community. The Makerspace on Rutgers’ Livingston campus allowed his interest to flourish and become tangible. His roots in technology grew from his involvement in the robotics aspect of his STEM classwork in school, where he acknowledges that the mechanics and settings of the 3D printer were the expertise of his teacher while the innovation for how best to execute and utilize a design were his own. Rokkos’ initial idea was to construct prosthetic hands, but realizing the difficulty of the logistics he gravitated toward the more feasible design of a stethoscope. Using a 3D model he found online as the basis for a printable template he switched his concept to stethoscope production. Furthermore, Rokkos decided that the best use of these stethoscopes is to send them, along with other donated medical equipment, primarily to Ukraine and also to Doctors Without Borders in order to service underfunded countries where they are urgently needed.
Low-cost solutions suited for emergency responders
Rokkos describes the purpose and development of his project as such, “The stethoscopes we are creating are designed to be a low-cost solution that provides medical grade equipment without sacrificing the quality of the device. Developed from a design that meets professional medically certified standards that includes 3D printed components and standard off-the-shelf supplies, our stethoscopes make an easy-to-replace and lightweight option well suited for low resource settings for emergency responders.”
Rokkos’ father is a faculty member of the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. He put his son in touch with Rutgers staff at the Division of Continuing Studies (DoCS) and set him on the direct path to see his vision to fruition as part of his Eagle Scout project for Troop 331. Makerspace founder and director Stephen “Skip” Carter and Makerspace manager Louli Kourkounakis worked extensively with Rokkos on the practical elements of his endeavor, including the production of prototypes and mass production of 50 sets of medical-grade components. These components were then assembled by Rokkos and his fellow Eagle Scouts, in addition to members of the community, at a Scout event that took place at Bell Labs in Holmdel on June 10th, 2023.
“Making” better medical care
Rokkos shared considerable gratitude to the Makerspace team for their willingness to support him in his ambition to research, design and produce affordable medical equipment. “Makerspace gave me the extra knowledge I needed to actually do the project,” he explained. This is not the first time that the Makerspace has been directly involved in the medical care of a community in a time of need. The Makerspace remained open all throughout the COVID pandemic and manufactured saliva test tubes, acrylic desk shields, incubation boxes, and face shields with a combination of 3D and laser printing.
The Makerspace offers online safety training in the use of its various facilities, including laser cutters, woodshop, a textiles area, sublimation printing, and water jet cutting. An introduction to 3D printing and the chance to design on your own via the modeling program Tinkercad are also available online. Rokkos’ project includes his own variation on the online training, specifically incorporating his stethoscope design and Troop 331. He states that his desire in creating this online portal is to “start a connection between the Scouts and the Makerspace.” Rokkos expounded, “The Makerspace has a great sense of community. They’re all working together to get this greater thing done. That’s just the great thing that Makerspace does. They’re these people that have all these skills and knowledge. Rather than just using it for themselves and profiting off it, they’re doing these very charitable and altruistic things and helping everyone.”
Making all summer long
The Makerspace is open all summer long, Monday through Friday from noon to 5:00. During the spring and fall semesters the hours are Monday through Friday, 1:00 - 9:00 and Saturday afternoons. A second location is also open at the Honors College on the College Avenue campus. In addition, Carter says that DoCS are searching for “a larger new home [which] would have community memberships.” The Makerspace is currently available, free of charge, to all Rutgers students, faculty, and staff.