With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, many critical industries have not been able to source enough PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Shortly after campus was temporarily closed in March, St. Mark’s Makerspace Director Stewart Mayer began to field a flood of inquiries from students and teachers asking how they could help address the PPE shortage. Putting their knowledge to work, Mr. Mayer and the St. Mark’s Robotics Team began to coordinate efforts to produce PPE remotely using 3D printers from the Addy Family Makerspace.
“I realized a great way we could get into a project like this would actually be with the resources we had at St. Mark’s,” said Rikhil Manduva ’21, who helped coordinate the project. “Being a Marksmen is about giving back and an understanding that we are in the fortunate position to help and serve others.”
Mr. Mayer quickly began distributing 3D printers to various students to enable them to print PPE components from their homes. So far, about ten students are involved, using the School’s eight printers, as well as several students’ personal printers.
“We decided to focus on printing face shields because those are something our machinery can manufacture with low risk of failure,” Mr. Mayer said.
Choosing a face shield design was difficult since there were hundreds of designs available to download, each with different trade-offs. After several design iterations, the team took the best parts of the shields they encountered and made their own design, dubbed “The Marksman.” Mr. Mayer added, “It has all the benefits of the higher quality shields and prints relatively fast.”
At first, it was hard to find recipients since most contacts were at large hospitals with strict supply channels. As the team dug deeper, they found a lot of small organizations in need. They have now supplied shields to more than a dozen organizations, including The Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, Methodist Dallas Hospital, St. Phillip’s Community Center, Cornerstone Baptist Church, City of Irving, several individual doctors, and other organizations. The team continues to receive orders from organizations like the City of Little Elm, UT Southwestern, and the City of Plano.
“It’s good to know that what I’m learning with 3D printing has allowed me to help other people in Dallas,” said Virun Triveti ’21, another member of the Robotics Team.
One of the beneficiaries of the face shields is Redeemed Women, a non-profit in Dallas who ministers to those living in generational poverty. Founder, Aelicia “Chocolate” Watson, was surprised and very appreciative of the shields as they work with people in very high COVID risk areas in south Dallas. “The lives of the women in the South Dallas neighborhood of Bonton are forever changed because of St. Mark’s,” Aelicia said.
So far, the team has produced almost 500 face shields, with more being printed daily.
“That is a lot for our little group, but a drop in the bucket compared to the need,” said Mr. Mayer. He and the team are coordinating with makerspaces at other local schools, maximizing their combined efforts. “I’d like to especially thank the Woodrow Wilson High School robotics team, who have been willing to share hard-to-find supplies. This really is a community effort.”