Rising to the occasion

June 1, 2020 - 12:00am -- Living City

Rising to the occasion
Pitching in to mass-produce ventilators for New York City

It was late on a Sunday night that I received an email from the chief operating officer of Boyce Technologies, where I work as an assistant project manager. Boyce Technologies normally designs and manufactures security and communications equipment for the mass transit market in New York.

But in response to the pandemic, we were being called on Monday, March 30 to make ventilators: 100 units per day, then as many as possible.

Yet that morning, there wasn’t even a single finalized ventilator model in sight. An early prototype was still in the design process. The team of MIT programmers and other Brooklyn-based technology companies were working hard, but many challenges still remained. The software was still in development, procurement issues limited the circuit board design, and its mechanical gears would skip when set to a higher pressure. This equipment was not mass-manufacturing ready.

Regardless, our team worked tirelessly, problem solving, updating and revising the engineering design. It was a stressful process. First, there was the challenge of getting to work every day, respecting the statewide mandate of social distancing. There were days I biked 10 miles to and from work, until our boss procured a fleet of vans carefully orchestrated for our transportation.

Safety protocols during work hours were also tight and changed our usual ways of doing things, from eating alone to taking extra care in using the facilities. At times the long hours and constant changes made our efforts feel like they were for nothing. Strong personalities and a rotation of new team members made the work difficult.

But though the task was daunting, I kept reminding myself that this project was bigger than me. It was bigger than the company. It was about the people that would be saved, as well as their loved ones.

I would like to think that when the time came, our company rose to the occasion. Our trust for one another and our compassion for our fellow New Yorkers motivated us to come in and give our best every day.

From the kitchen staff to the machinists, the welders, engineers and management, everyone worked together to make this complex vision a reality. On Friday, April 17 we received official FDA approval. Then, on Tuesday, April 21, the mayor of New York revealed our finalized ventilator design as an “invaluable tool” to the public.

Now we are manufacturing 3,000 of these lifesaving machines.

- Aeryk Catipon

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