Students and faculty from the Salamanca City School District are pooling their resources to create 3D-printed parts for reusable face masks to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

In New York state, doctors, nurses and first responders report shortages of protective gear. A platoon of 3D printer-users were deployed in the Salamanca community to manufacture protective gear from home offices and the recently opened STEAM Wing for health workers.

“Each mask costs just over $2 to print with plastic,” said retired Dell computer engineer David Springer, who assists with night operations of the Warrior STEAM Wing. “We have the equipment, the knowledge and the technology. I thought, ‘We can do this.’”

Springer reached out to University of Rochester School of Education alumnus Aaron Straus, STEAM coordinator at Salamanca High School, who put in a request to access the lab.

“We asked the district administration to let a small strike team assemble into the school to run the 3D printers,” Straus said. “We got the OK on Monday. By Tuesday, our team was printing our first face mask.”

The school is partnering with local agencies to produce and coordinate the distribution of facemasks, which will go to health care facilities.

“The design is pretty straightforward,” said science teacher Cheryl Johnson, who converted an area of her home into a remote makerspace. “Each N95 mask is made of three parts. The largest piece, the face shield, takes about two hours to print. Two smaller pieces take about 25 minutes each.”

Johnson and her son, Cole, downloaded an open-source file to print an N95 mask. They ran the file through a program that determined the correct pattern for the school's 3D printer.

“The 3D N95 face masks have an area where particle filters can be replaced,” junior Cole Johnson said. “After sanitization, this allows the masks to be reusable.”

Boundless Connections, a technology resource and training company headquartered in Olean, put out a pro bono RFP to school districts with 3D printer capability to produce additional facemasks for area hospitals and health centers.

Straus said initial trials took three hours to print the sole headband for Boundless Connections, so he and Springer asked students to remotely assist with fine-tuning the printer setting.

"We're in the middle of a pandemic that's of a scope we don't understand and most of us have no direct control over,” Straus said. “But, it is an opportunity to teach students about the role of engineering as a benefit to society and likewise find innovative ways to still deliver quality STEAM instruction remotely over the web.”

Health agencies can request 3D-printed mask donations at clopez@boundlessconnections.com.

 

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