Westchester’s Leffell School Develops Covid-19 Product Solutions


Students at The Leffell School in White Plains have designed a 3D-printed door handle attachment that enables people to both push and pull doors without using their hands.

The coronavirus precaution was developed by Engineering and Entrepreneurship students Eitan Gotian and Justyn Zvi at the Jewish day school in a collaboration with Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), an Israeli-based project that helps schools and other institutions develop new products for the elderly and those with disabilities.

The Leffell School (formerly Schechter Westchester) has been partnering with TOM since 2015 by hosting “makeathons” to create products for individuals who live with physical disabilities; when the school moved online in March, Leffell’s director of engineering and design, Danny Aviv, created a mini-course on product development for Covid-19-related products.

“I was really stumped” when learning went remote, Aviv said in a statement. “My whole teaching model relies on students with access to fabrication facilities, tools, and electronics working together in the same room.”

With the help of TOM and Eitan Abecassis, a Leffell School alumnus and now a computer engineering student at the University of Michigan, the students produced 23 proposals for products, apps and social ventures, ranging from a sensor to detect over-crowded rooms to a touchless vending machine.

Rising junior Alex Gitnik and several fellow students have been using the school’s 3D printers to produce NIH-approved ear-savers (developed by a Canadian designer and downloadable from the TOM website), and delivering them to area healthcare workers. Gitnik and his team of students have so far  printed and distributed almost 12,900 ear-savers, adjustable plastic strips that make face masks more comfortable.

In all, TOM communities around the world have delivered more than 100,000 PPE’s to frontline workers.

The door-opener, soon to be tested at The Leffell School and the  YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood, is a deceptively simple attachment that allows people to turn a handle with their forearms. The devices can be fabricated on a 3D-printer.

The students’ product proposals will be posted on the TOM website and released to the public domain, where professional manufacturers are encouraged to develop them for wide use.

“While the outputs of this course are product proposals,” said Abecassis,  who after graduating from Leffell in 2018 became the University of Michigan TOM community manager, “the true learning experience was to learn about thinking on your feet, being able to adapt to unfamiliar situations, and most importantly teamwork.”