Businesses and young people across the country are using 3D printers to make mask straps for healthcare professionals.
Joining the nationwide effort is Fusion Academy Scottsdale, a grade 6-12 school at Gainey Ranch that recently made 100 mask straps for St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.
“St. Joseph’s Foundation is extremely grateful for the donation from Fusion Academy Scottsdale to support emergency response efforts at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center,” said St. Joseph’s Foundation President Terri Hoffman.
Fusion Academy Scottsdale Head of School Patrick Thompson said when they heard that healthcare professionals were complaining about the long hours of wearing face masks and the strain the straps put on their ears, they put their two 3D printers to use.
Hali Niles, Fusion Academy Scottsdale’s art, history and photography teacher, made the straps over the course of two days.
She spent 15 hours each day printing them on campus.
“The machines [were] running nonstop,” Niles said.
Fusion Academy Scottsdale then donated the mask straps on April 18.
“They’re just very grateful, very happy that we were able to help them out,” Thompson said. “We know how important their job is, and we just want to do all we can to make sure that they are safe.”
Since, Fusion Academy has received calls from ICU nurses in Minnesota and Florida requesting the 3D-printed straps.
“We were also contacted by a few more people throughout the country who had seen our interview on channel 10 news,” Thompson said.
“We’ve actually been able to ship them out to Minnesota and Florida to help ICU nurses there as well. We’re going to help out as much as we can,” he added.
Because nurses have been spending 12-plus hours taking care of COVID-19 patients, the masks irritate not only the face, but also the ears.
“The mask straps are designed to relieve pressure on caregivers’ ears, providing a little more comfort during what can be very stressful days,” Hoffman explained.
The 3D-printed straps are also stronger, reusable and sustainable.
Thompson said he hopes Fusion Academy Scottsdale’s donations will send their students the message that “we’re all in this together.”
“Many times in our lives, everyone is so very busy getting accomplished what they need to get done. But at times like these, it just warms my heart to see the community come together and jump at opportunities to serve others. And that’s what I hope that our students take from this: Look for more opportunities to serve,” Thompson said.
Fusion Academy opened its first Arizona campus in Scottsdale in November 2019 and is one of 60 private school campuses across the country.
The one-to-one school — one teacher, one student — provides a personalized learning experience for students in middle through high school.
In response to the pandemic, Fusion Academy Scottsdale pivoted to online classes and has been offering them to their 16 enrolled students since.
“We were able to transition to our virtual plat platform very seamlessly because we had already had it in place before the epidemic took place. We’re nationwide with over 3,700 students, and we transferred all the virtual on a matter of days. It was actually very impressive,” Thompson said.
The 3D printers are located in Fusion Academy Scottsdale’s Fusion Technology Lab, which also boasts a virtual reality lab.
“In there, we are able to integrate virtual reality into any class that we teach. It’s part of the new approach to teaching that Fusion Academy has spearheaded where we want to get the students involved and adapt to the way that they learn,” Thompson said.
“Right now, technology is such a big influence on our kids’ life,” he added. “So, if we’re able to implement that in a history class or science class to help them learn, that’s the purpose of that technology lab.”
Niles continues to teach her 3D class, albeit virtually.
Her students’ current project is to make a mechanism, and when they’ve finished creating that mechanism, she will print it on campus — in addition to printing the straps.
“I’ll coordinate a time for them [the students] to come pick up those pieces, and then during our next virtual session, I’ll instruct them on how to put those [pieces] together,” Hiles explained.
One of her students is even interested in learning how to make face masks from home using the 3D printer.
“When she let me know that [she wanted to make masks], I informed her about the project I was doing [the straps]. She was really excited for the project, too, because we both just want to be able to do what we can’t help during this time of uncertainty,” Hiles said.