Health crisis alters original use of Speed School supplied 3D printers for local teachers

April 1, 2020

When Lowe Elementary School Technology Coordinator Lyn Travis attended a two-day workshop March 5 and 6 through University of Louisville’s Speed School of Engineering about 3-D Printing, she had no idea she would be employing her new skills so soon – and in such an impactful way.

One week before the JCPS schools shut down due to coronavirus concerns, the teacher had been at AM Watch, a National Science Foundation–supported workshop at UofL’s Additive Manufacturing Institute of Science and Technology (AMIST). There, Travis was learning the latest trends in using 3-D printing for classroom use. As part of the program, 25 teachers were given a 3-D printer for their classrooms.

Now, Travis is filling a small but vital role, along with other teachers, by putting her printer to work, making components for face shields, part of PPE (personal protective equipment) for front line nurses and health professionals.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused the demand for PPE for healthcare workers to skyrocket – a demand supply chains cannot keep up with. UofL engineer and Navy vet Ed Tackett coordinated a response at the AMIST facility at UofL Speed School of Engineering to fill this gap. Speed School student volunteers trained on 3-D printing equipment are volunteering their time, with the AMIST facility production team printing face shields as quickly as possible, running four shifts and 16 hours daily. But more face shields are needed.

Emily Villescas, who has been spearheading the community engagement effort at the Speed School of Engineering’s AMIST (Additive Manufacturing Institute for Science and Technology) facility, said when they contacted the teachers who attended the recent workshop to help with printing the PPE for local hospitals, the response was immediate.

“Within hours, I was getting emails from teachers all over wanting to help,” said Villescas. “It was pretty amazing. We sent them files on how to print the face shield frames approved by the state and the CDC, and are coordinating with them to deliver the parts to local drop off sites. It really shows you their dedication to helping people, both in and out of the classroom. We would not have this kind of movement with this project without the teachers, so we are all so grateful for their support,” she said.

With 25-30 teachers already on board, and the word spreading every day, Ed Tackett said the efforts are making a significant impact.

“Every shield they make – that means another healthcare worker is protected in state of Kentucky,” said Tackett. “If you do the math, each printer can print two shields every two hours, and with 25 printers, if they run for six hours, that is 300 face shields a day just from JCPS.”

Lyn Travis, who teaches computer technology to all 600 K-5th grade students at Lowe Elementary, said her principal, Mr. Allain, was immediately on board with Travis taking her printer home to help with the effort. So far, Travis has printed 17 headbands (or face shield frames) and delivered them to a community drop-off site.

The teacher said she feels an obligation to continue printing the shields until there is no more need, even if she has to buy supplies herself. “It feels good knowing those pieces I dropped off last week went directly to help fill an order for UL Hospital. I feel like I’m doing my part to be part of the solution not the problem,” she said.

For the students Travis teaches, she said there will be a real lesson when they return to the classroom, and beyond.

“It’s because of my school administrator letting me go to the AMIST workshop that we are helping with a local solution to this massive worldwide problem. The kids might not realize the impact today, but when they’re old enough they’ll be like, ‘Wow we were a part of that.”

Fourth–grade teacher Heather Kemp said that after she attended the workshop, she was printing 3-D crayfish with her students at Middletown Elementary. Kemp, who teaches all subjects but focuses on math and science, wanted to incorporate STEM learning. But that can wait, because now it is all about printing face shields.

Kemp said she is heartened to observe that “as the virus is growing exponentially, so is the growth of helping hands to combat it. If you look at two teachers, then 35 teachers into one small community, then the designs for the shields being shared and spread to other states, it’s growing every day.”

When the day comes that students return to the classroom, Kemp said there will many lessons to learn. “When you think about Muhammad Ali’s maxims about giving back, or the Mayor’s Give Back Day, next year, my kiddoes will have a great example of how the community gives back. This coronavirus is affecting some of them personally, who have moms and dads who are doctors and nurses. They will have lived through this and it will make that day even more meaningful.”

Local drop offs include:

  • Norton Commons at 9418 Norton Commons Blvd. Prospect, KY 40059
  • CORE Combat Sports at 13124 Eastpoint Park Blvd, Louisville, KY 40223.

Both of these have labelled boxes in the front dedicated to drop offs, which will be picked up on Friday nights. No face-to-face contact.

  • The AMIST Facility on Belknap campus is taking local drop offs at one of the loading docks that will be labelled
  • ALL deliveries can be sent to this address as well: 1940 Arthur Street Louisville, KY 40208.