FHSD Industrial Technology Teachers Using 3D Printers to Make a Difference

Posted on 04/03/2020
Mike Green (FHN) holds up face masks

Industrial technology teachers from across the District are using 3D printers to help fight the spread of COVID-19. Around the country, shortages of face masks, disposable gloves, and other medical supplies have been reported. To help provide for the healthcare workers on the frontline of the pandemic, Ricky Reeves (FHHS), Michael Green (FHN), and Don Barnes (FHC), are using the technology in their classrooms to make a difference.

3D printersWith 3D printing technology, they can print face shield brackets that hold clear protectors in place for health care professionals. The brackets will be donated to St. Charles Economic Development Center, who will deliver them to local healthcare workers. "The parts are designed and tested by healthcare professionals, yet we are using the proto-typing modeling skills used in the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) engineering classroom," said Green.

3D printers layer thin strings of extruded, hot plastic to build a physical object that was created in computer-aided design (CAD) software. "Once we have the print file setup and settings dialed in, the print takes about four and a half hours per mask," said Reeves. "We were sent a file, and I put that into our software to convert it to a print, dialed in the settings and tested and tweaked until it printed correctly. Once we get a good print, we pull it off the print bed, inspect and repair the surface, and hit reprint." Once completed, the masks are sealed in Ziploc bags and placed in a sterilized container.

Ricky Reeves (FHHS) holds up a face mask"Ricky, Mike, and Don are setting positive examples for students and families on ways to help the community out in a crisis," said David Brothers, Director of Curriculum and Assessment. "They immediately stepped up to help the cause, and have demonstrated how teachers in Francis Howell have supported our community."

Inside the classroom, 3D printing is a game-changer for students. "This technology allows students' ideas to come to life," said Barnes. "If they can dream it and draw it on CAD software, they can then print it to see how it works. The students get excited about what they are creating, and this motivates the students to work harder and be more entrenched into their education."

While shortages may be happening, these teachers are doing their best to make a positive change during uncertain times. "All it takes is one mask to make a difference in someone's life," said Barnes. "So yes, I do feel that it can make a difference."

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