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Staff Snapshot: Zabrina Crespo, 3D printing enthusiast

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UCPath Center Benefits Associate Zabrina Crespo and her husband, Jhonny, have been 3D printing hobbyists for a few years. For those unaccustomed with the 3D printing process, users upload a digital file to a printer, which then uses plastics to produce solid, three-dimensional objects. The end result seems somewhat magical: Printers and designers can create a seemingly endless array of objects, from textured spheres to sculptures to the current trend — personal protective equipment (PPE).

Like many Americans, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread, Zabrina and Jhonny were shocked to learn about the nationwide shortage for PPE. When a friend of theirs who worked in health care and knew about their 3D printing hobby asked whether they would print her an “ear saver” (a type of headband that reduces pressure on ears from wearing medical masks), they happily complied. Another friend learned of their interest in helping and connected them with a local effort to print face shields for health care facilities. 

Zabrina and Jhonny eagerly arose to the challenge. They coordinated with friends to scale up from one 3D printer to five and began running the printers nearly 24/7 — allowing them to print 200 ear savers or 80 face shields daily. They finish each item by hand, filing any sharp bumps, punching holes in the clear plastic dividers and assembling the shields. To date, they have printed and donated more than 2,000 ear savers and 1,000 face shields. Their PPE has been donated throughout California — to Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Clara and San Diego counties, including UC San Diego’s Thornton Lab and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center — as well as 10 states beyond. Their donations protect workers in the medical field (in intensive care units, emergency rooms, drive-up test sites, COVID-19 teams and assisted living facilities), grocery stores, credit unions, postal service, law enforcement, truck drivers and more.

“When we found out that we could use our hobby of 3D printing to do some good for those that are most affected, we jumped at the chance of finding an avenue to be helpful during these uncertain times,” says Zabrina. “We are thankful for the opportunity to give back to those who are putting their lives on the front lines to keep everyone safe and healthy.”

Meet Zabrina

Name: Zabrina Crespo

Title: Benefits Associate

Department/Unit: Benefits/Benefits Billing

Location: UCPath Center, Riverside

When did you start working for UC? October 2018

In 10 words or less, what do you do for UC? I serve employees taking unpaid leaves of absence.

Why do you love working for UC? The culture — our strong sense of camaraderie. We can successfully accomplish anything that comes our way as a team. 

What’s something people don’t know about you? My husband and I have two adorable kitties, I have been playing the flute for almost 20 years and I am left-handed.

Who’s your dream dinner guest (living or dead) and why? English novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy. My freshman high school English teacher had us read a couple of Thomas Hardy’s works: “Far from the Madding Crowd,” “The Mayor of Casterbridge” and “Tess of the d’Urbervilles.” The themes of women’s independence, the past and forgiveness, and fate and free will really resonated with me at an impressionable age. I have always wondered, been curious about and interested in the conversations I could have over dinner with Thomas Hardy regarding his works.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? My college professor, John Dally, from Point Loma Nazarene University, read to me one day: “The reality is, saying yes to any opportunity by definition requires saying no to several others.” This is a direct quote from the book, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown.

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