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Tech Ed Students Using Skills to Fight Covid-19

Category: Smartforce Jun 26, 2020

By Kathy Keyes Webster, AMT Exhibitions Content Manager – Correspondence

Around the world, technical students, faculty, and administrators are asking, “How can we help fight COVID-19?”

From advanced manufacturing high schoolers to engineering graduate students, many are putting their CAD-CAM, 3D printing, and metal cutting skills to work making a variety of equipment including respirator masks, ventilator components, and face shields.

“This health crisis is showing students, teachers, and parents the value of manufacturing technology and its importance to our health and daily living,” says Toni Neary, Director of Education for the Morris Group, Inc. “They’re also witnessing the high-tech creative nature of manufacturing as well as feeling the rewards from making something helpful to others. I think this unfortunate event will enhance perceptions of advanced manufacturing and reengage many students.”

The University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has been working with binder jetting company ExOne to develop reusable metal filters with respirators. The 3D printed filters are now undergoing testing and could help to protect against the COVID-19 virus.

About 40 volunteer students and faculty at Purdue University are making safety glasses, face shields, disposable connectors for ventilators, and N95 masks to deliver to hospitals in Indiana. The university has several manufacturing facilities including the Gene Haas CNC Laboratory equipped with Haas VF4s, which is part of the Haas Technical Education Center Network. Other capabilities at the university include injection molding, vacuum forming, roll-to-roll manufacturing, machining, 3D printing, laser scanning, and assembly operations.

Students and faculty from the College of Technology at Purdue University Northwest in Hammond and Westerville Ill., are 3D printing parts for face shields for health care workers in Northwest Indiana.

SCC AM student and lab technician Matthew Sizemore working with the PRUSA i3 mark 3D printer to run samples of the initial headband design.

Derby State
Professor Eric Wooldridge, Director of the Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence at Somerset Community College in Somerset, Ky., is leading efforts to 3D print face shields for health care workers across the state. In the first six weeks of the state’s stay at home order, he slept in the lab to keep the machines running. He created files on Google for others to print PPE items. Wooldridge is heading up the state’s Rapid Response Additive Manufacturing Initiative (RRAMI), an idea he proposed to establish AM centers around the Bluegrass State to train manufacturing technicians in AM and to respond in crises.

Sea3D Lab at the University of West Florida, in Pensacola, Fla., is 3D printing face shields for healthcare workers and first responders throughout Florida.

Kent Rough Riders
A small team at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent, Ohio, have been 3D printing ear guards and are donating them to local hospitals. The ear guards help take the pressure off the ears of health care workers from wearing masks all day. 

3D Printed Ear Guards

The Cardinals
At the University of Louisville in the Speed School of Engineering another team is 3D printing protective face shields in their Additive Manufacturing Institute of Science and Technology (AMIST) facility. The shields will be donated to local hospitals and first responders. The original impetus for the project was a request for 100 of the shields from the Internal Medicine Department at University of Louisville Health.

Bombers and Cadets
In Minnesota, two technology teachers pooled their equipment to make face shields for the local health care workers and first responders. Luke Becker, the agriculture science and technology teacher at Braham High School, 3D printed headbands, which were fitted with face shields made and cut by his counterpart Mark Westlake, Director of the Innovation Center at St. Thomas Academy, which has a laser cutter. “Our communities have given so much to us. It’s our chance to give back to them,” says Becker.

College Trifecta
Bowdoin, Bates, and Colby colleges are collaborating to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) for donation to health systems in Maine. From technologists to librarians, many faculty are 3D printing items in their homes and on campus for the local health care facilities.

PorterBots, an after-school applied engineering program at Lockport Township High School (LTHS), in Lockport, Illinois, is 3D printing ear savers and parts for face shields. They are part of the Illinois PPE Network, a group with Chicago’s makerspace network.

Concordia University’s 3D Printing Lab in Mequon, Wis., is using all 30 of its machines to print face masks for the community’s first responders and healthcare workers.

In Brecksville, Ohio, Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School students and faculty are creating face shields using the 3D printers and laser cutters in their fabrication and design lab. They are donating them to their local first responders, healthcare workers, and essential businesses.

CTE Coalition
Tooling U-SME and 18 industry partners formed the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Coalition as an industry response to provide a new virtual environment to meet the education needs of tens of thousands of high school students whose in-class learning halted amid the pandemic.

Toni Neary reports that she’s received many emails from faculty at Chicagoland schools involved with the Haas Technical Education Center network. They are making PPE for their local police, fire department, and healthcare workers. Some highlights include:

The Bremen High School District, which includes Tinley Park High School, loaned its 3D printers to the Midlothian Fire Department to make protective masks. A teacher showed the department via phone how to make them.

South Suburban College in South Holland is employing 3D printing at its satellite campus in Oak Forest to produce clear plastic full-face shields for health care workers. Leyden High School District 212 in Franklin Park has a team of six teachers printing face shields and ear straps.

In Winnetka, New Trier High School District 203 Applied Arts staff members are using department 3D printers and laser cutters to make face shields for the NorthShore University Health System. Triton College in River Grove is 3D printing face shields.

Ridgewood Community High School and its feeder school Union Ridge in Norridge are 3D printing face shields and Montana face masks, which include a filter and seal for the face. They are delivering them to health care workers in hospitals and nursing homes.

Technology education teachers from across District 214 are using 30 3D printers to make face shields and partnering with Harper Community College staff who are laser cutting the shields. They are donating them to local hospitals and fire departments.

Maine East High School is 3D printing face shields and sewing face masks. The school is providing face shields to local hospitals and police and fire departments. The face masks are being distributed by students and their families.

The Spirit of Advanced Manufacturing
The examples above are just a sample of what’s happening in the United States and around the world as educators and students unite in a common mission to help others.

“From Italy to Japan, I am hearing so many stories of the education community responding with their technical know-how and their drive is inspiring even more students and educators to explore how their own advanced manufacturing skills and resources can be utilized in the fight against COVID,” says Catherine Ross, AMT Director – Smartforce. “They are demonstrating the true spirit of manufacturing innovation. The rewards of helping those in need and the well-deserved publicity are undoubtedly changing perceptions about what it is like to work in our industry."

Rebuilding the Supply Chain 
COVID-19 has put critical manufacturing under a microscope, and current manufacturing supply chains are long and complex. Crisis or not, the current technological, political, and global trade landscape have put US manufacturing in an unprecedented position.  

Whether you are an advanced manufacturer, job shop owner, or OEM, you are in the midst of your own supply chain challenges, uncertainties, and questions. In an extraordinary effort to support you, AMT and IMTS are dedicating significant staff and financial resources to help you rethink, reengage, and reestablish supply chains. Visit to learn more.

Have you helped an OEM or manufacturer source closer to production? Share your experience at

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