In the midst of the battle to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, educators have been finding unique ways to make a difference away from the classroom. With schools closed and teachers looking for ways to get involved in the community-at-large, the opportunities are endless.
In the Wantagh School District, Kaitlin Humphrey is going above and beyond. The science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEAM) teacher asked the district to let her use 3D printers that would otherwise just be sitting in the school with no one able to use it.
“I’m sitting home, so why not try?” Humphrey said. “I asked my superintendent and asked if I could take the printers home. He said it’s not a problem.”
Humphrey has been using a face mask template created by Stony Brook University’s David Ecker, the director of the iCREATE program. She continues to work with Ecker, traveling back and forth from the Suffolk County campus to provide health care workers with protection.
Wantagh let Humphrey bring home a pair of 3D printers, and she’s been quite busy printing out the face masks.
“I got the design from him [Ecker] and all I need to do is press print,” she said. “We dropped off 33 on Friday, and we’re printing as many as we can. I’ll drop them off as long as they take them.”
Each face mask takes approximately five hours to print, Humphrey said. The design is meant to allow health care professionals insert a foam piece on the top of each mask to give those wearing them extra protection.
Humphrey’s mother is an emergency room nurse in Huntington Hospital and her father helped create the temporary field hospital at SUNY Old Westbury.
“I wanted to do something,” she said. “We have this and it’s not going to cost anything. We have all the materials. It lets my students see why we have this 3D technology. They see the 3D printer and think it’s cool and we’re going to print something fun, and we do. But I also try to teach them that it’s essential, and this is a perfect example.”
Ecker started with a goal of creating 5,000 masks by working with Suffolk County libraries and schools. The Stony Brook lab can print about 60 face shields a day, but the extra assistant from individuals like Humphrey has elevated that number to the hundreds.
“We had to ramp up production almost immediately,” Ecker said. “iCREATE has about 20 3D printers and we just turned it all into a production house to do that. We’ve printed about 257 and our goal is 5,000. We’ve partnered with Suffolk County Library to produce about 100 to 200 a day.”