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Realizing first hand that Lubbock’s medical community needed more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as they work with patients infected with COVID-19, the All Saints Robotics Team – the Iron Patriots, joined in a community effort to use 3D printers to make protective face shields.

Many of the Iron Patriots have family members working daily in industries impacted by the need for PPE in the battle to protect them from COVID-19.  Their parents are doctors, nurses, first responders, funeral directors, as well as many other professionals in essential needs jobs working in the frontlines daily interacting with patients infected with the highly-contagious corona virus.

The teens felt the urgency and need to do something to help the community. When they learned of the Texas Tech student group effort, the West Texas 3D COVID-19 Relief Consortium, they knew they had the expertise and materials to join the effort. The consortium was started by a group of Texas Tech engineering students and grew into a community effort of  Tech engineering, health sciences center, and honors college students as well as other local organizations.

“Since the proposed project aligned to our Robotics curriculum and provided an extended STEM application we offer at All Saints, it made sense to collaborate,” All Saints Director of Instructional Technology and Robotics Coach Dr. Penny Carpenter said. “I reached out to Bryson Seekins, a master’s student at TTU’s Center for Biotechnology & Genomics and he sent us the STL file to print the face shield visor and elastic clip. Early on, Seekin’s goal was to produce 350 face shields. If we could print 30, it would be 15 percent of their goal.”

The All Saints students were eager to get started.  But Dr. Carpenter understood there were challenges to taking on such a project while All Saints was no longer holding classes on campus and had adapted to Distance Learning since Texas Governor Greg Abbott had closed all schools in the state. She knew everyone needed to participate in the efforts, but they would all have to contribute by working alone in the privacy of their own homes instead of the traditional school setting. In addition, the students had to procure the equipment needed to make the face shields.

“No doubt online classes can be challenging, but coordinating a virtual manufacturing project adds another layer of obstacles. Not everyone has a 3D printer, but everyone was going to play a role in this project,” Dr. Carpenter said. “Junior Brennan Moreno shared his idea to create and test an injection mold as an alternative process to make the face shields quicker. He ordered the needed materials online.  Senior Laken Koepp documented the tasks in the Iron Patriot’s team notebook while freshman Diego Cervera corresponded with Seekins for instructions on how to pack and deliver the printed face shields. Freshman Grady Geihsler has a 3D printer and spent a few days troubleshooting to discover what parts to order to make the screens as well as proofreading and editing all correspondence.”

Dr. Carpenter said High School Division Head Tammy Edmonson was a superhero for the team as she joined with them to aid their efforts in procuring the necessary materials.

“During an online class session, we guided Ms. Edmonson via phone through our learning space at school,”  Dr. Carpenter said.  “Ms. Edmonson gathered the laptop, 3D printer, and filament needed and delivered the equipment to senior Anthony Paone’s home.”

Once the Iron Patriots had their equipment and knew how to proceed they began the lengthy process of constructing the face shields.  Each face shield visor and clip that secures the elastic takes approximately two and half hours to print.

“We used the Patriot blue and red filament leftover from our robotics season and printed more than the promised 30 face shields,” Dr. Carpenter said. She collected the finished face shields from Paoane’s home and delivered them on the team’s behalf to Texas Tech on April 30 for the final assembly.

On that same day another news story was printed about the consortium’s project in Texas Tech’s online news medium, Texas Tech Today.

“While this is only one small thing which we are able to do to help the community, we hope that our service will help protect the local medical staff that are especially important to us right now,” senior All Saints robotics team member Laken Koepp said.

According to Seekins, the Consortium now consists of more than 100 Texas Tech students and 35 local groups with 3D printers.  The consortium originally hoped to print 350 face shields.  To date, they have shipped out more than 2,000 face shields to the large hospitals in Lubbock as well as local medical clinics and medical facilities in rural areas.  They are printing an average of 600 face shields per week.

“This is truly a fully fledged project-based learning project that has allowed our students to develop a richer understanding of knowledge by having them actively engage in a real-life/real-world challenge,” High School Division Head Tammy Edmonson said. “Not only have they accomplished something meaningful and community driven, this is something these students will remember for a lifetime, when reflecting back on their experiences related to COVID-19 while they were in high school.  Accolades and praise go out to Dr. Carpenter for helping lead the charge and to the robotics students for making a significantly positive impact to help others in need.”

The All Saints students said they were proud to be a part of such a large group effort through the consortium to aid communities in the battle against COVID-19.

 “Each student had a role and made a contribution. Everyone had a hand in this, but more importantly, these students were part of a very real situation,” Dr. Carpenter said. “They solved a problem; a need. They supported our community, our families. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”