These days, we’d all like to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. Glenelg Country School’s Upper School STEAM Coordinator Tyler Boyle has found a way to contribute by fabricating components for personal protective equipment (PPE) needed by healthcare workers.
“Early on, I saw a desperate need for PPE for hospitals and healthcare providers,” Boyle said. “Having experience working in makerspaces as a college student and running the Innovation Lab at GCS, I know the potential that 3D printers have in the manufacturing industry and wanted to help keep our medical providers safe.”
3D printers take a plastic filament and, following a computer program, heats the material, and “prints” it by extruding it into the desired shape. Many free (open-source) 3D printing software designs exist on the Internet, ranging from simple toys to the parts of a life-saving ventilator.
Boyle reached out to his friends in the DC/Baltimore makerspace community for advice. He researched available software programs and decided that the parts that comprise the frame of a face shield could be easily configured to the same 3D printer he uses in his Foundations 9 (Fabricating Our Future Unit) course for ninth graders. Boyle applied the computer-aided design (CAD) skills he teaches to create the face shield parts.
“There are many different options for PPE available online, but few are clinically proven," said Boyle. "Many designs have emerged for respirators, but they either require a specific type of 3D printer filament (plastic) or aren't clinically certified. The mask seemed to be the best option because of how essential it is and the range of testing it has undergone to assure the user's safety."
Boyle will be contributing his finished 3D-printed parts to the Makers Unite initiative. Makers Unite is an organization that sterilizes the components, adds the acrylic shield and elastic bands, and then coordinates distribution to medical professionals. The design software for the exact face shield parts that Boyle is fabricating with the 3D printer is described here.
“It was the best given the equipment and supplies that we currently have at the school,” he said. “My goal was to help medical providers, and the organization has the resources to assure the equipment’s safety and make sure it gets into the hands of professionals.”
Boyle said he is anxious to get back to the classroom to see his students.
“Every day, students would stop by the makerspace to say hi and talk about their different projects. An email is not the same as a face-to-face conversation," said Boyle.
He also plans to share some of the insights he’s gained while on stay-at-home. Boyle said the experience helping to build the face shields has helped reinforce how important the skills he teachers are for the 21st century.
"The pandemic and reliance on the maker community show that these skills can be used every day in the real world, and they too can make life-saving equipment using a machine they purchased at a store," added Boyle.
Boyle also wants to encourage his students on how to cope with the current situation. He said, keeping a routine helps.
"For me, a routine provides a sense of normalcy," Boyle concluded. "Even though a routine is great, don't beat yourself up for not making everything happen in one day. Try to remember that there are good days and bad days, and in the end, there's always tomorrow."