As health care workers and first responders continue to face challenges with personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the coronavirus pandemic, a team of local teachers and manufacturers are teaming up to produce the equipment while keeping students connected along the way.

Through the Open Source Medical Supply (OSMS)-Barrow Project, non-traditional manufacturing procedures, including 3D printing, are used to produce reusable face masks and face shields, according to a Barrow County School System news release. Six of the team members oversee 3D printers in their home makerspace, which could range from four to 15 printing units, and the team coordinates the number of items printed based on order requests from local organizations.

Overall, the project consists of about 30 3D printers producing parts at any given time, according to the release. It takes about three to four hours to print a mask and about an hour to print a face shield. Additional post-production steps are required.

On April 16, components for 150 re-usable, protective “Montana Mask” kits were delivered to the Winder Police Department. Montana Masks are constructed in a way to significantly extend the lifespan of the mask.

In addition, 330 face shields were donated to Northeast Georgia Medical Center Barrow the week of April 21 for use by physicians. Each face shield kit consists of a headband and the transparent shield that covers the face. The clear component is being produced by Peachtree Tooling, a local engineering and tooling manufacturer. Shields can be disinfected and reused.

More than 50 additional masks and face shields have been delivered to a number of smaller organizations, including Aaron’s In-Home Health Care Providers, Twilley Dentistry, the FBI’s Atlanta office and the Barrow County Detention Center.

“Requests for PPE have been received by a number of additional organizations and individuals in Barrow County,” leaders said. “OSMS-Barrow is doing its best to meet all of those needs. All items produced are 100-percent donated to organizations at no cost.”

To offset the cost of the materials needed in production, donations are being accepted through the Barrow Community Foundation’s website. To date, more than $2,000 has been raised for this project, including a $1,000 donation by the Winder Rotary Club, and more than 500 PPE items have been donated, according to the release.

PEOPLE BEHIND THE PPE

Lee Bane is the director of innovative learning for Barrow County schools and has served as the leader of the initiative to support local health care workers and first responders.

Benjamin Manning is the mechatronics instructor at the Sims Academy of Innovation and Technology. He is also head coach of the Sims Academy and Barrow 4-H FIRST robotics team.

About a week after the state of emergency was declared, a member of the robotics team contacted Manning about making masks and face shields for hospitals and first responders. A local organization called the Georgia PropellorHeads reached out with the same request and wanted to get involved, according to the release.

Through the robotics team’s research, students discovered and selected the Montana Mask design for its project.

“Due to social distancing and shelter-in-place constraints, the physical contributions by student members of the robotics team have been limited,” leaders said. “However, the entire OSMS-Barrow Group is indebted to the RoboClovers Team 5132 of Sims Academy and Barrow 4H for their initiative that helped launch this community service project.”

Manning currently has 14 3D printers in his home makerspace dedicated to the OSMS-Barrow project and has produced more than 300 masks and face shields to date.

Kimberly Garren is the engineering teacher for Winder-Barrow High School and the advisor for the WBHS Technology Student Association (TSA).

Garren said she saw an opportunity to expose her students to the OSMS-Barrow project. Early lessons focused on how 3D printers, laser cutters and CNC machines work. Students then conducted research regarding PPE that makers around the world were designing and producing using those machines.

Using an instructional time lapse video of her 3D printer printing the face masks, students mathematically calculated how many masks could be produced each day per 3D printer and how much each it costs to produce each mask based on the price of each roll of material.

Other student research assignments focused on the safety behind makers creating PPE in comparison to what equipment health care providers typically used prior to the shortage. Students then selected what PPE device they would choose to make if they were only allowed to make one. They had to give the rationale for their choice citing research related to cost, time, safety, impact, required skills, etc.

Garren also led virtual class discussions covering the difference between the masks and face shields, as well as the various troubleshooting processes the OSMS-Barrow Group has currently been working through related to producing face shield visors.

“Through (Garren’s) integration of the OSMS-Barrow project into her daily classroom instruction,” leaders said, “her students have been authentically engaged in applying learning to life in a number of ways: how we can help; how we have a duty as makers to use our skills to help others; how much work it takes to get designs right; how to research and account for liabilities; how multiple people are coming together to make the work possible; and how teamwork is important.”

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