Community of makers use free time to help healthcare workers by making PPE

Niranjan Aradhey, Staff Reporter


The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on 2020. Some will remember it as months of boredom stuck at home while others have taken time to learn new skills or find new hobbies. However, one community of makers have gone the extra step to help out the healthcare workers in the area. This group includes sophomores Kasey Yun and Calvin Riley, as well as HHS teachers Geoffray Estes and Seth Shantz.

By implementing the use of 3D-printers, they are able to print out plastic headbands, mask extenders and face shield reinforcements. Once printed and sterilized, the contents are then packaged and sent to Rockingham Memorial Hospital and other healthcare workers within the local community.

After an email exchange with Amy Russell, one of the makers from the community, regarding how HHS can plug into filling the needs of our medical first responders, engineering teacher Andy Jackson put a request out to local middle and high school STEM teachers to see if they were interested in helping the cause. 

“With [Jackson] coordinating the effort on our side, we gained permission from school administration to enter the school buildings and retrieve the 3D-printers we had on-hand. We were all incredibly excited to be able to help the cause,” Estes said. 

The teachers involved with printing from HHS are Estes and Shantz while from the middle schools there is THMS STEM teacher Stephanie Nelson and SKMS STEM teacher Patty Watson. By April 15, the HCPS maker group helped the local maker’s community by printing enough parts to deliver over 1400 PPE shields to the RMH community.

3D-printers work by drawing a thin plastic layer in the determined shape and then stacking these “drawings” up layer by layer. For this reason, one crucial step to 3D-printing is to “slice” the model and tell the printer what each layer will look like. However, Laura Taalman, a JMU professor and parent to HHS student Calvin Riley, had already taken the 3D models provided by the Prusa Printers, located in Czechoslovakia and optimized the models for fast printing on a number of printing devices.

“Because the models were sliced already, the process was really just loading the file and printing. The printing environments needed to be sterile and masks and gloves were to be worn as we handled and bagged the pieces. In roughly 12 days of printing, the HCPS makers were able to produce 20 headbands, 14 mask extenders and 80 bottom reinforcements,” Estes said. 

After seeing the promising results in just the 12 days of printing, the group has no intention of stopping now. Their next steps include continuing to deliver PPE to RMH, as well as starting to send their printed supplies to healthcare professionals all over the community.

“The number one thing we hope to accomplish is to help keep our health care professionals safe during these times. We want to provide them with the resources they need to keep everyone in our community as healthy and safe as possible,” Estes said. “I want to reiterate that this project is much larger than just HHS, HCPS or JMU even. There is an army of makers in our community who are producing these life saving devices for our healthcare workers in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Our HCPS makers are very happy to be a part of this group and glad that we are able to lend this type of assistance when needed.”

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