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Battling COVID-19 with…3-D Printers!



Team creates more than 4,500 face shields using 3-D printer technology.

Lisa Blank, Regional Co-Chair of the North County STEM Learning Network and the Watertown City School District’s Director of STEM Programs, helped lead an effort to develop face shields and mask accessories to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in upstate New York.

And they did it with 3-D printers.

North County High School STEM magnet program sophomore
Photo credit: North County High School STEM magnet program sophomore Megan Cunningham printed the first part of a face shield Monday night. She is one of eight students who were loaned 3D printers from the school to print personal protective equipment for medical professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

In the earliest and darkest days of the pandemic, Blank, along with Mari Cecil, principal at BCA Architects and Engineers, organized a team charged with quickly developing and producing COVID prevention equipment using 3-D printer technology. With funding from a Department of Defense Education Activity Grant that supported makerspace, which included a 3-D printing startup across Watertown’s eight schools, the team led a grassroots effort to produce and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) throughout the region.

“Communication between workforce development, employers, and schools has created collaboration in support of developing computer science, technology, and engineering pathways in our schools,” Blank said. “The need for face shields during the pandemic by our health and medical institutions resulted in the establishment of new partnerships between those institutions, our schools and their students, and businesses to produce this much needed equipment.”

Photo courtesy of the North County STEM Learning Network

With the grant funding, WCSD purchased more than 20 3-D printers that were allocated to maker spaces in each of the district’s buildings.  During early COVID-19 school closure, the printers were used in district staff members’ homes, to undertake the equipment printing work. Using shared design files, more than 4,500 face shields were 3D printed, assembled, and distributed to the front-line workers who needed them most.

Click here to learn more about the STEAM Team’s work.