Community partnerships and volunteers helped make face shields possible for healthcare workers
Posted on 04/30/2020
Photo: (L to R) David Vanzant, a teacher at STEM School Chattanooga, models a face shield produced by a 3-D printerThe face shield production lab at STEM School Chattanooga where teachers and volunteers spent the past month producing 6,919 personal protection devices for local health care workers, was possible because of the help of community partners and volunteers. Individuals, businesses, and local organizations heeded the call for help and came together to use 3-D printers in Hamilton County Schools to deliver the personal protection products to local healthcare workers.

Public Education Foundation, Volkswagen, Under Armour, Chattanooga State, the Chamber of Commerce, and many more helped to provide a resource to give back to the many healthcare workers on the frontline during the epidemic. Michael Stone, with the Public Education Foundation (PEF), was part of the effort from the first day and researched options for personal protection devices and designs for making the products with district 3-D printers. He worked along with Graham Bredemeyer of Collider Tech, and a team from Branch Technology to serve as a think tank for product design.

“It is a group of teachers who donated their time and a group of community members who have gotten together, made the design, vetted it, and got it approved for medical use,” said Michael Stone, director of Innovative Learning at PEF. “It is exciting to see! Certainly, these are unprecedented and dire times, but we are excited to be able to give back to the men and women on the front lines in the medical community confronting this virus head-on.”

The 3-D printers from across the districts were brought together at STEM School on the campus of Chattanooga State to have a 3-D printer farm working to produce protective devices for local doctors and nurses. The farm included 73 printers from school VW eLabs, STEM labs, Fab labs, and makerspaces in Hamilton County Schools. Hamilton County Schools has the world’s largest collection of educational digital Fab labs.

It has taken a village to produce the face shields. PEF allowed Michael Stone to donate his time for the project, budget management, manufacturing material procurement, lunches for volunteers, and research for product designs. Volkswagen developed the injection mold of the final design and donated nearly 3,000 headbands for assembly. Dr. Tremaine Powell, dean of Chattanooga State’s Engineering Technology department and his team, printed headbands; Chantz Yanagida, with eLab Repairs, contributed 75 hours as a technician to service the 3D printers; and Ji Heo, the owner of Tesla Brothers, cut 9,000 pieces of polycarbonate for the face shields at cost. Several companies donated headbands, including Michael Broggi of Mueller Co., and Under Armour.

The manufacturing effort also required a lot of products the group did not have available. Andrew Rodgers of ACE IoT Solutions, convened manufacturers and led the process for sourcing materials along with Courtney Watson, Woodbridge Foam worked to quickly provide more than 50 sheets of foam cut to the right thickness for the headband inserts, and Steve Hiatt with the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce helped source plastic material for the shields. Trever Ehrlich, the creative solutions manager for Kenco Innovation Labs, 3D printed more than 400 ear savers to accompany the face shields. Private individuals from home even got involved as Gary Minnick printed and delivered about 100 headbands to assist with the project.

“It has been an honor to see people all over our district step up to lead and serve during this difficult time,” said Jill Levine, chief of Innovation and Choice for Hamilton County Schools. “The face shield project is just one of many examples put into action of the belief in our school district that we are #BetterTogether.”

Photo: (L to R) David Vanzant, a teacher at STEM School Chattanooga, models a face shield produced by a 3-D printer