What Do We Do Now? Learning from El Paso-Juárez

Maker News
What Do We Do Now? Learning from El Paso-Juárez

With the largest bilingual, binational workforce in the world, the El Paso-Juárez “borderplex” is home to over two and a half million people. Covid-19 has introduced incredible complexity into a region already defined by it: The border is closed except by permit and now, after a spring of relative calm, the region is coping with a serious Covid-19 outbreak. As in many cities, makers in the region stepped up as the pandemic emerged in March to provide much needed PPE and support for essential workers across these communities. Among these were Fab Lab El Paso and Fab Lab Juárez, which harnessed the ingenuity and energy of their respective maker networks and collaborated to scale production due to agile manufacturing opportunities in Mexico.

The PPE shortages that marshaled this citizen supply chain have largely been ironed out over summer and these borderplex makerspaces, like many others, have found a new mandate: specialized rapid prototyping. As we have seen across the world, makers and their machines have shown themselves to excel at innovating and producing custom fittings for medical devices in collaboration with medical professionals. It is this collaboration that is leading them into the future and helping answer the question “What do we do now?” as the trajectory of the pandemic evolves. The forward looking Nurse to Innovator Project, a collaboration among these makerspaces, the Medical Center of the Americas Foundation, and local healthcare professionals will link nurses with local makers to cross-pollinate skills and make products/working solutions that increase worker health and safety. Their strategy aims to build a pipeline of Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) nurses and frontline health innovators by harnessing their often ignored day-to-day experience and creative potential.

You can watch the video of the episode on Facebook.

Date recorded: Thursday, November 5th @ 4pm PT / 6pm CT / 7pm ET

Join Dale Dougherty of Make: Community and Dorothy Jones-Davis of Nation of Makers as we talk with our panelists not only about how the pandemic has evolved in the El Paso-Juárez region, but also how these organizations are working to change the way people think and address crisis collectively. What do we do next? How we can harness the energy, ingenuity, and skills of makers to improve safety and medical outcomes in what comes next?

Cathy Chen is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Fab Lab El Paso, a digital design, fabrication, and education hub at the interaction of art and technology. Driven by her passion in advocating for the socialization and democratization of technology, she aspires to combine community-led, user-driven, and service-based model with creative innovation. Cathy champions the Maker Movement and works closely with designers, engineers, developers, and educators to execute high impact programs for the border community. In 2016, she was named STEM Educator of the Year by Chevron. In 2019, she received the Innovation Award from Pioneer 21. In 2020, she received funding from Tribeca Film Institute IF/Then to produce a documentary short on a student DIY prosthesis story in El Paso, Texas. She studied Literature at Duke University and KMD Masters at Keio University in Tokyo. She also completed a Certificate of Readiness from Harvard Business School in 2020. Cathy is a native of New York City, currently residing in El Paso, Texas

Samuel Badillo (MSc, BSc) is the Operating Director of Fab Lab Juárez. A graduate of the University of Leeds’ Global Innovation Management program, he worked as Product Design Engineer for the manufacturing industry before joining the nonprofit sector. He is the Director of Operations for Fundación Axcel A.C., through which he founded the first fabrication laboratories in Juárez in 2017 and 2019 and directs educational programs to increase digital literacy at different levels, developing technical and soft skills for employability needs of underserved youth populations. Together with Fundacion Axcel’s team, Samuel worked to fabricate PPE for public hospitals in Juárez in cooperation with Fab Labs, makerspaces, and volunteers around the world.

Nancy Lowery is the Director of Innovation for the Medical Center of the Americas Foundation’s (MCA). She leads the MCA Innovation Center’s program planning, works directly with startups from ideation to growth phase, strategizes across MCA programs to develop a unified platform that spurs technology innovation, and is a tireless advocate for the regional innovation ecosystem.

Ogechika Alozie (MD MPH FACP AAHIVS) is the CMO of the Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, Texas where he oversees clinical quality, physician alignment and partners on healthcare innovations. He has also been the CEO of Southwest Viral Med (SWVM), a non-profit organization in El Paso responsible for the care of over 1000 clients living with HIV since 2014. A graduate of the University of Minnesota’s Infectious Diseases fellowship program, he received his medical degree from the University of Benin in Nigeria and then completed his residency at the Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he got his introduction to Digital Health. He is also board-certified in clinical informatics by ABPM, making him one of less than 100 such certified physicians in the state of Texas. As the chair, co-chair or member on multiple state committees, he represents El Paso, focused on how Health information technology can improve care. “Technology is not a replacement for patient care, but rather a way to enhance and catalyze the care our patients deserve.” In a 2016 TedXEP talk he discussed Innovation at the Intersection: A Confluence of Ideas at the Borderplex.

YouTube player
Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Jennifer Blakeslee keeps the Global Maker Faire program running smoothly and has been a maker at Maker Faire since 2011. Among other things, she really likes to travel, write, cook, hike, make big art, and swim in the ocean.

View more articles by Jennifer Blakeslee


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).