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College, high school STEM teachers team up to 3D print face shields for healthcare workers

HILLSBORO, Ohio — Soon, thousands of face shields will be in the hands of frontline hospital staff, and it’s all because of the hard work of about a dozen teachers.

What started as a grassroots coalition could potentially supply hospitals from Cincinnati to Athens.

“Its been great seeing everyone here – contributing here – doing their part to help in this dire situation," McClain High School computer science teacher Nate Luke said. "It’s pretty neat to see.”

Southern State Community College’s gym has been transformed into a 3D assembly line for prototype face shields.

“We’re taking something we have, and a skill we have, and applying it to people who need it right now. It makes it worth it,” Luke said.

It all started with a Facebook post.

“(I) saw online people were 3D printing face shields in Europe,” Southern State Community College computer science professor Josh Montgomery said. “Man, I wonder if we can do that in my computer lab.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, the classrooms have sat empty, but the tools to make the face shields were already in place.

Montgomery started to put a plan together, wondering "if there are educators in Southern Ohio that aren’t doing a lot, 3D printers sitting in their schools not doing anything,” he said.

“We were right.”

Sixty-one 3D printers have been working nonstop ever since. The group calls themselves the Southern Ohio Makers Against COVID Coalition – or SOMACC.

“When you’re an educator, you’re used to helping people – that’s your mission in life to do, you’re taken out of your environment," Montgomery said. "This really gives us an outlet.”

Speaking of outlets, Nate Luke spends a lot of his free time training for marathons, but with all the orders for PPE, he hasn’t had time to train like he used to.

“A lot of the time, I’ll go out and run,” Luke said. “I’m a big runner.”

That part of his life had to be put on hold, but Luke didn't know he was in for a big surprise.

Over 1,400 teachers applied and Luke was one of 50 educators from across the country selected to participate in the New York City Marathon for his hard work as a STEM teacher.

Inside the gymnasium – the finish line is in sight.

“We’re just a bunch of educators trying to make a difference,” Montgomery said.

There, teachers modeled a valuable lesson – no classroom needed.

“We’re taking something we have, and a skill we have, and applying it to people who need it right now,” Luke said. “It makes it worth it.”

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