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Stephen Chininis- Local Hero, Part of Five Stories to Brighten Our Spirits

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Stephen Chininis, Photo by George Hunter

The Bright Side of Lockdown in Peachtree Corners

We can all relate to the surreal feeling brought on by the coronavirus as we struggled with being caught in this bizarre new world that was difficult to believe yet impossible to ignore. We couldn’t help but feel shocked as it unfolded — it was unprecedented — although there had been a dreadful buzz in the air heading straight for us from miles away.

As our nation is sieged with controversy, climbing death rates, trepidation and uncertainty, I wanted to find some uplifting, local COVID-19 stories that would serve to brighten our spirits. This is part 1 of 5 stories to be posted.

Stephen Chininis — Local Hero

Industrial Designer and Inventor at Chininis Product Development Group — Chininis Designs, Georgia Tech educator, Curiosity Lab mentor and Peachtree Corners resident Stephen Chininis wondered what he could do to help during the crisis. “We all got the sudden shock that the world was changing. I suppose if you’re a poet, you write poems about it. I’m not a poet. I make things. I’m an inventor,” he said.

Behind Every Great Man…

In early March, his wife, former Assistant Principal of Norcross High School, Maria Chininis, suggested he make face shields when she realized her colleagues were in desperately short supply. Mrs. Chininis currently works with a sports medicine group at Northside Hospital.

Equipped with a 3D printer and a laser cutter, her husband got to work in the garage, creating a model to be vetted by the infectious disease staff at Northside. A few modifications later and Chininis was ready to go, well before most. Some were producing one-time-use face shields, but Chininis had specifically received requests for shields that could be cleaned daily and reused.

Steve Chininis’ medical face shield being worn in the ICU, on the front lines. Photo courtesy of Stephen Chininis.

Left, Inventor and Industrial Designer- Stephen Chininis Top right, Stephen Chininis and his wife Maria Middle right, 3D printer Bottom right, Stephen in the work space where he created 3D printed PPE to put in the hands of U.S. hospital and medical staff when they needed it most.

Photos by George Hunter

The Power of 3D Printers

“The companies who produce face shields couldn’t meet the immediate demand. They were ramping up production the same time we were. We beat them; the 3D printers of the world beat them, we got… [face shields] into the ICUs. It’s just a get ‘er done attitude,” Chininis stated.

Regarding his problem-solving approach to life Chininis said, “I’ve always had that attitude; it came from my parents and my upbringing. I think that’s something we need more of. I’m really glad to see my students acting that way. They’re asking how they can help. It’s very infectious. Everybody wants to be a part of making things better.”

He provided over 300 face shields to hospitals all over the U.S. “3D printing has some weaknesses but the strength is, if there’s a problem and you need to solve it, you need a prototype, I can design something, print it overnight, and the next day, I can have the answer,” Chininis said of the low-run production solution he made use of so ingeniously.

“What’s cool is you save the files of all these different things you make, and you can reproduce them again whenever necessary,” Chininis beamed.

Trial and Error

An injection mold is a better way to produce face shields, but it’s a much more expensive endeavor. The mold alone could cost $30,000. It requires special equipment and machines, so the tooling price is prohibitive if you’re only looking to produce a few hundred of them.

With a long-spanning career of 30-plus patents and licenses for over 100 inventions under his belt, Chininis found himself Googling and talking to doctors, trying to find out what kind of plastic other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) products were made of so he could use that same grade for his shields.

“It wasn’t as smooth as it sounds,” he recounted, and told of misadventures with industrial plastic companies that would suddenly cancel orders due to COVID-19.

He modified his designs several times to be able to continue making the visors with whatever plastic he could find, often with variations in thickness. The downside: “Sometimes the plastic was heavy, so it wasn’t as comfortable to wear, but better that than not having a visor,” Chininis offered.

An initial model made of acrylic crazed after sitting overnight, forming tiny cracks all over the surface of the shield. Two of his face shields melted when left in direct sunlight for too long but they were returned and easily replaced.

“3D printed plastic is susceptible to high heat. At 150 degrees it will start to bend and melt,” Chininis explained.

Then it was a matter of finding someone who stocked the right plastic in the thickness needed. “It’s all very tedious. Thankfully, my wife helped me,” he noted.

PTC resident, Steve Chininis, makes face shields in his garage. Photo courtesy of Stephen Chininis.
The Cost of 3D Printed PPE

Materials for one medical grade shield run about $10, and the two-hour time frame needed to print it, $50. Yet Chininis offered his products for free to hospital staff. Some recipients offered to help defray the cost of materials for the production of subsequent shields.

Ratted-Out by the Neighbors

“I’d like to point out how lucky I feel to live in Peachtree Corners,” added Chininis, a resident since 1986. When neighbors saw him toiling in the garage in response to the needs of medical staff, the news soon reached CBS who rushed to cover the story in March.

The design that got him recognition was a sturdy yet comfortable mask, made of high-quality plastic that was resistant to chemicals and could easily be washed and reused for several months.

“Everybody wanted one from San Francisco, Louisiana, Atlanta, to Chicago and New York,” he said. His Instagram and Facebook posts resulted in requests pouring in.

When a Community Pulls Together

During the busiest time, he turned to Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners for an extra printer to ramp up production. Chininis had helped set up the 3D printers there when it was still Prototype Prime, and he has been instrumental in the printers’ maintenance ever since.

He also enlisted the help of a former student in Marietta who could make a batch of 10 masks per week to help fulfill the orders.

An ICU hospital employee wears a face shield produced in Chininis’ garage in PTC. Photo courtesy of Stephen Chininis.
Face Shields of the Future

The demand from hospitals started to taper off in early May. It has shifted from PPE for hospital staff use to mask for use by everybody else. Chininis explained, “We’re starting to see a second wave of PPE coming along, not designed for the ICU but for other people. We never really thought about this. How do we protect everybody?”

Chininis is now producing made-to-order shields: “Tell me what you need, I’ll make it.”    People don’t want to take medical grade visor shields away from the ICU, but they do want something to make visiting their parents safer. He’s created a simpler design that can be fastened to a baseball cap.

Chininis meets these challenges with enthusiasm; it’s part of why he loves design so much. Effective design is the result of knowledge, and he has a passion for learning about each new need.

“I try to anticipate what may happen. It’s hard because there’s a lot of conflicting information,” he said.

“People are getting restless. It’s not safe yet and it won’t be for a good while. I’m inclined to listen to doctors and medical people. We did have a great effect on COVID-19 already, we did flatten the curve. I don’t think relaxing [Stay at Home Orders] to a great extent is going to be helpful. It’s going to come back. There are going to be hot spots. The question is how big and where will they be, in our backyard or someone else’s?”

We all Need to get Back to Work — Safely

Chininis was working with dentist Emily Chen, DDS, MA Prosthodontist, the day of our interview, custom designing a visor that would allow for the dental loupes to fit underneath with a headlight affixed to the top. “She’s going to use it over the weekend and let me know on Monday what we should change,” he explained.

He’s also gotten a request from a turkey factory in Minnesota that has asked for face shields that they can attach to their hardhats.

A Humble Hero

When I thanked him for everything that he and his wife have done to make things a little better during this frightening time, Chininis replied: “Honestly, it’s nothing. You do what you do. If you’re a doctor or a nurse, you go to the hospital and you help there. If you drive trucks, then you help with the food supply.”

“I’m really proud of the folks I know who have not been whiney in the face of this crisis. They’ve taken on a ‘We can figure this out’ mindset.”

His unpretentiousness had me on the Coronacoaster of emotions. Eyes welling with tears, I needed him to know that his ingenuity and generosity are everything, especially to those who have loved ones on the front lines.

At this point a blubbering mess, I managed to choke out, “Most of us feel helpless — like there’s nothing we can do.” To which he replied, “But that’s not true. By writing an article, you’re doing something. Right? It’s just a matter of everyone figuring out what they’re good at.” That’s when I would’ve hugged him if I could, but alas, distanced Zoom interviews are the new normal.

To learn more about our local hero, a man you want on your side when the chips are down, visit ChininisDesign.com.

Photos by Photographer George Hunter

Patrizia hails from Toronto, Canada where she earned an Honors B.A. in French and Italian studies at York University, and a B.Ed. at the University of Toronto. This trilingual former French teacher has called Georgia home since 1998. She and her family have enjoyed living, working and playing in Peachtree Corners since 2013.

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Community

Run the Gauntlet of Fitness

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Peachtree Corners Fitness Trail

How the Path to Fitness was “paved”

As businesses, restaurants, and gyms close down, we struggle more and more to meet our need to stay healthy. Fortunately, Peachtree Corners City Councilman Alex Wright has teamed up with city manager Brian Johnson to construct the Path to Fitness in the Peachtree Corners Town Center. Path to Fitness is a unique green space that combines the fresh air of the outdoors with high-quality fitness equipment akin, or even superior, to that you might use in a gym.

Using their experiences at the U.S. Army’s Ranger School, Wright and Johnson took note of the strenuous — but muscle-building — obstacle courses that were made to create herculean soldiers. They shaped wood and bent steel into stationary equipment to aid residents in developing their body both conveniently and efficiently.

Brian Johnson stated “…we had a certain institutional knowledge of certain things that we could create, so I asked Mike if he could create some of those as a way to help this group…  come out here and enjoy some unique fitness equipment that could be integrated in their normal workout routine [and] help  them work muscle groups that they wouldn’t be able to normally work in another setting.”

The Path to Fitness includes a number of pieces of high -quality equipment. According to Councilman Wright, “I have to say that there’s a lot of excitement because they didn’t really know what to expect! They’re thinking, you know, just regular playground equipment, but we’ve got a 20-foot rope climb here… some very unique monkey bars.”

Of course, the Path does not end there:  the trail also includes a few pull-up bars, a sit-up station, as well as a wall climb. It must be emphasized that the trail is meant for fitness, not for use as a playground. So make sure to supervise your children if you decide to substitute your YMCA subscription for a free walk on the Path to Fitness!

Councilman Alex Wright on the wall.

Some of the exercises you can do on the fitness trail:

Check out the full YouTube playlist of all the things you can do on the Fitness Trail at Peachtree Corners Network

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City Government

Report an issue with the free Peachtree Corners Fix-it app

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peachtree corners fix it app

It’s now easier than ever to report an local issue by using the free Peachtree Corners Fix-it app.

To Create a Report

  1. Select “Create” from the menu.
  2. Log in, create an account, or click “Create anonymously…”
  3. Click the box under “Select a Report Type” and select a type from the menu that appears at the bottom, then click “Done”.
  4. Under “Where is the problem” click the map; set the location by entering an address in the search box or by clicking the location on the map, then click “Done”.
  5. Click in the box under “Tell us more details” to answer additional questions and/or enter a description of the problem. Please include the address.
  6. Under “Add photos, video, or audio” click the paper clip icon to upload a file.
  7. Click “SUBMIT”.

To View the Status of a Report

  1. Select “View” from the menu.
  2. Select an item from the list, or click the map icon at the far right to see all reported issues on a map.
  3. Click a flag on the map, then click the status box to see details of the report.

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City Government

Tiffany P. Porter Takes Office as Gwinnett Tax Commissioner

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Tiffany Porter

Tiffany P. Porter assumed the Office of the Tax Commissioner for Gwinnett County effective today, the first African American to do so in the county’s history.

Porter campaigned on a platform of bringing a new type of leadership to Gwinnet that builds upon the legacy of past leaders.

“I’m honored that voters put their faith and trust in me,” Porter said. “I believe in civic duty and promise to serve all Gwinnett residents to the best of my ability.”

Prior to being elected tax commissioner, Porter served as the first African American judge in Duluth Municipal Court and had founded two law firms. In addition to serving on the bench and practicing law, Porter appears weekly as a legal analyst for the Court TV network.

Porter has a law degree from Emory University and was admitted in 2009 to the State Bar of Georgia. She also earned a master’s degree in Business Administration from Georgia State University and a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University, where she graduated with honors.

A 20-year resident of Gwinnett County and the mother of four, Porter is the first in her family to attend college and the first to earn a law degree. She is a 19-year member of Life Church International in Duluth, a 20-year member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and a proud two-time breast cancer survivor.

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