With the COVID-19 pandemic causing a greater need for personal protective equipment than at any time in recent history, students and alumni of Clovis high schools are doing their part to help.
The Buchanan Bird Brains and Clovis North Stable Circuits robotics teams have teamed up, along with Sanger High, to use 3D printing to create and donate composite face masks, shields and ear savers to various health care facilities around the Valley.
Over the last six weeks, the teams have delivered 400 masks and shields and 200 ear savers to hospitals, clinics and assisted living centers.
The masks that the teams are creating are approved for hospital use, but are not the same rating as the more notable N95 masks.
Each mask is 3D printed with a filter holder and uses a foam tape to form a good seal around the face.
Whereas the N95 masks filter out 95 percent of particulate matter up to a certain size, the masks the robotics teams are printing filter approximately 85-90 percent.
Clovis North’s team has been sewing masks for Valley Children’s hospital, which has a universal masking policy that all people who enter the facility must adhere to.
“We have committed to 240 face masks for Valley Children’s and an additional hundred each week for however long they need it,” Stable Circuits coach and advisor Mary Allen said. “It’s a lot of masks.”
Producing that number of masks has been somewhat of a challenge to complete, Buchanan team Chief Communications Officer and junior at the school Annika Garza said, given the need to follow social distancing guidelines.
“It’s pretty difficult for the people that are 3D printing,” Garza said. “If they run into issues, it can be hard to diagnose without giving the proper info or that people can’t be there to help troubleshoot anything in person.”
When there are orders for 1,800 more masks to be produced, and each mask takes hours to make, these problems can cost valuable time.
“It really halts the whole mask making process if you’re going to have to wait for all the errors to be resolved,” she added. “Things like that, and being separated, not having that support or not having access to a good 3D printer could kind of hinder people that are trying to help.”
The workers persevere, but they do need the public’s help to fulfill future orders.
According to the Bird Brains’ team mentor Shahe Der Haroutunian, each mask costs just over $2 to produce, including buying the raw materials.
That is why the team has set up a GoFundMe fundraiser page to help with the costs.
The team has a goal of $5,000 and currently have raised just over $4,000.
“Every dollar you contribute will make equipment. We are all volunteers, and we seek zero profit,” Haroutunian wrote on the fundraiser’s page.
“We simply want to make a direct impact, and we hope you do too.”