It’s not every day that educators get called in to help in the midst of a crisis.

However, across the state and across the nation, educators with access to 3-D printing materials and supplies are being called upon to help first responders in their most neediest of times. CUE members like Paul Gordon, Nora Allstedt, Jesus Huerta, and Matthew Miller are being called upon to help manufacture PPE materials that are being donated to hospitals and first responders in need. Gordon, a fifth-grade teacher from Palm Springs Unified School District, was eager to help. Gordon remarked, “There is a massive 3-D printing community that has been trying to help even before COVID-19 was happening in the United States. Jo Prusa in Europe has massively organized his facilities to help and the United States has followed suit. For me, my students’ parents are nurses on the front lines of this and I asked them what they needed. From there I was in direct contact with with these parents and she was talking to her coworkers asking them what they would like as well.”

Educators aren’t the only ones getting involved! A student from Gordon’s class takes on the challenge of printing PPE from home.

3-D printed PPEs – such as N95 masks and surgical mask ear protectors – are just a few of items being printed by educators like Gordon and Allstedt.

Similarly, Allstedt was contacted by a school counselor whose husband is a nurse for Kaweah Delta Hospital (KDH) in Visali. Allstedt remarked, “[The counselor] asked me if I had access to our schools 3-D printers. She went on to tell me that KDH was looking for people to 3-D print N95 masks, which are in very short supply. I went online, found an approved design, and printed a sample. At the same time, educators from Visalia Unified printed a sample as well. These were taken and turned into KDH for review. We started an email group for local educators interested in helping with the project. I also saw the design for surgical mask ear protectors and started printing those while we waited for KDH to approve the mask design. I posted a picture on Facebook and had a friend (whose spouse is a nurse) ask about them. I dropped off 25 to her for personal use and to share. This lead to more requests for those as the straps to medical surgical masks are irritating to the ears. A medic friend from Scotland messaged me over the weekend – after seeing pictures on Twitter of the mask ear protectors – and asked for the .STL file as she knows someone with a 3-D printer so they could print some for folks in Scotland.”

Huerta gets creative with his surgical mask ear protectors – adding fun designs like Pacman and Wonderwoman, among others.

Huerta, a fifth grade teacher from Calexico Unified School District, has been 3-D printing for some time in his own classroom but quickly jumped on board with the project after being inspired by other educators. He said, “I’ve been printing for about five years and use it quite a bit in my classroom. When I saw everything going on with 3-D printing and medical supplies, I wanted to try and help out even though I was late to the party.” Late to the party or not, his impact – along with the countless others of educators and 3-D printers across the globe – is being felt by first responders most in need of these materials.

Miller got involved with printing materials, quite by accident. Miller, a 4th grade teacher in Bonita Unified School District, took his classroom 3-D printer home with the intent of using it to teach his own children the program Tinkercad. By chance, his wife shared with him a post from Scripps Ranch Civic Association (SRCA) in San Diego about their need for 3-D printed parts to make face shields. Miller stated, “I sent them an email, but my excitement grew and I started to research where else I can help. I did some digging and came across Matter Hackers. I joined the Matter Hackers group list for COVID19 support as well. About three days after all this, the emails for help came in.” Miller soon realized that his classroom XYZ Da Vinci 1.0 was not going to be enough – so he sought permission to use his school’s CraftBot 2.

In the first week of his project, Miller was able to print out 60 face shields for SRCA and Matter Hackers. And that was only the beginning. Miller said, “Before I shipped the parts out I snapped a pic for Facebook in hopes that others with 3-D printers could join in on the support. A colleague responded to my post asking if I was making the ear savers too. Her husband is working for a local hospital and really needed something to relieve his ear pain. I downloaded the file from Thingiverse and started making ear savers. The requests starting pouring in and the ball started rolling. Friends wanted to support my project, I was very hesitant in asking for help, but eventually started a GoFundMe to help buy another printer, more filament, and to help pay for the shipping of the parts. At the same time, unknown to me, my union president, Nicole Grant, was talking to Bonita Unified School District’s superintendent, Carl Coles, to get permission to use the 3-D printers in our district. With the help of Kris Boneman, Bonita USD’s Director of Education Technology, I was able to visit many schools to pick up their 3-D printers. Setup in my dining room, I now have 8 CraftBot 2 printers from Bonita USD and 2 XYZ Da Vinci printers. These printers run non-stop from about 7AM to 1AM. As soon as I print supplies, they go right out. I can’t keep anything in stock for too long. Just today, I have 500 ear savers going out to our local retirement care community. I’ve printed over 500 hours and over 3.1 miles of filament in 14 days. Currently, I’ve sent out 2400+ ear savers mostly to local hospitals, but I have mailed several hundred to Reno, NV and to Maine.”

Miller’s set-up of 3-D printers in his home.

 

Miller said, “Before I shipped the parts out I snapped a pic for Facebook in hopes that others with 3-D printers could join in on the support. A colleague responded to my post asking if I was making the ear savers too. Her husband is working for a local hospital and really needed something to relieve his ear pain. I downloaded the file from Thingiverse and started making ear savers. The requests starting pouring in and the ball started rolling. Friends wanted to support my project, I was very hesitant in asking for help, but eventually started a GoFundMe to help buy another printer, more filament, and to help pay for the shipping of the parts. At the same time, unknown to me, my union president, Nicole Grant, was talking to Bonita Unified School District’s superintendent, Carl Coles, to get permission to use the 3-D printers in our district. With the help of Kris Boneman, Bonita USD’s Director of Education Technology, I was able to visit many schools to pick up their 3-D printers. Setup in my dining room, I now have 8 CraftBot 2 printers from Bonita USD and 2 XYZ Da Vinci printers. These printers run non-stop from about 7AM to 1AM. As soon as I print supplies, they go right out. I can’t keep anything in stock for too long. Just today, I have 500 ear savers going out to our local retirement care community. I’ve printed over 500 hours and over 3.1 miles of filament in 14 days. Currently, I’ve sent out 2400+ ear savers mostly to local hospitals, but I have mailed several hundred to Reno, NV and to Maine.”

Miller has sent out over 2,400 ear savers mostly to local hospitals, but also to Nevada and as far as Maine.

 

How can other educators help?

Gordon stated that if you have a 3-D printer you can get started right away. He also said, “If you do not, the filament used for making these PPEs can get pricey by running the machines 24/7. If you know someone who is 3-D printing PPEs ask them what filament they are using and think about donating a roll to them. Each roll can cost between $20-$50 and can make about 80 face shields. That is less than one dollar per shield and it goes a long way. Allsteadt agreed with Gordon, “Helping someone who is already set-up and printing by purchasing filament for them would be helpful.”

Getting started printing your own medical supplies seems fairly simple according to Gordon and Allstedt. Gordon stated that you would need to have an operational 3-D printer and the files available from the NIH – these files are approved on a national level for making and using within hospital organizations.

Allstedt’s “Corona Door Opener/Pen Pad” device – one of the items she’s been printing from home.

Once the 3-D materials have been printed donations can be dropped off at local hospitals or donation centers. Gordon advises the following for printed materials that are to be donated. He said, “Not all hospitals are needing the same items. Always contact your local hospital to find out what they are in need of and what file type they request. As a recommendation make sure that you get your donation center to sanitize these items. You may sanitize yourself but make sure that they do a sanitation that is up to the hospital grade standards.” Allstedt added on, “[As Paul said] not everyone needs the same thing. With KDH we have been working with the clinical nurse educator who has done testing of masks to make sure they are safe for staff to use. They also sanitize everything to hospital standards when they get them.”

Educators and crafty folk across the nation have been stepping up to do their part. Allstedt commented, “It has been cool to see the Maker Community step up to the plate to help out at this time. We are truly better together – and in this together. I have also made what I call a Corona Door Opener/Pen Pad Devices from a design I found on Thingiverse by XrControl – I have sold these to friends cheaply to have money for additional filament.”

For more resources, check out NIH, Matter Hackers, and Operation Shields Up!.

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