Teachers using high-tech fabrication to churn out protective face shields for front-line workers

Mask components
Posted at 4:21 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-05 20:23:17-04

EASTLAKE, Ohio — It’s an unfortunate race against time.

Healthcare workers, first responders and other essential personnel across the country are fighting COVID-19 with very little personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as PPE.

In Lake County, school closures aren’t keeping educators from serving front-line employees.

“The school is really becoming an epicenter of the response to this virus in Lake County,” Superintendent Steve Thompson said.

Willoughby-Eastlake City School District employees are working around the clock to supply face shields to employees fighting the virus on a daily basis.

“We have laser cutters and vinyl printers and 3-D printers,” Thompson said, “And they’re using those and of course our computers to design them and then actually produce them.”

There are high-tech fabrication labs on three campuses in the district: North High School, South High School and the School of Innovation.

School district employees teamed up with MakerGear, a Beachwood-based 3-D printing company, to churn out face shields with elastic headbands to combat the nationwide PPE shortage.

“We are able to every night pump out at least a hundred,” Rachel Legerski said, “Sometimes between a hundred and 200 depending on how well the production goes.”

Legerski is an MIT-certified FAB Lab instructor. For her, finding a way to serve during the global health crisis was personal.

Her brother is a nurse anesthetist in Washington, a major hot-spot for the virus.

Additionally, Legerski’s son is an NICU nurse in Columbus and her daughter is a physician assistant.

“I know firsthand they don’t have all the equipment they need,” Legerski said, “So it makes me feel like if I have anything I can do to help provide for them and all the people on the front lines.”

Superintendent Thompson said the opportunity to serve is the silver lining during an unprecedented, stressful time.

“We’re able to use our technology in our schools that the taxpayers pay for,” Thompson said, “And actually use it not just to educate our students, which is pretty incredible, but to really make a difference.”

After hearing about the action the school district is taking, neighbors have also stepped up.

“We’re really sourcing materials anywhere we can,” Legerski said, “Neighbors are just dropping it off at my house. I have a box on my front porch and they drop the elastic in there.”

There are multiple ways to assist Willoughby-Eastlake teachers and MakerGear employees in their efforts.

If you have extra supplies that can be used to manufacture the face shields, like elastic, you can donate those materials in a drop-box behind the Willoughby-Eastlake School of Innovation.

That campus is located at 32500 Chardon Rd. in Willoughby Hills, OH.

If you do not have any of those supplies, but still wish to contribute, you can make a monetary donation on the MakerGear website.

The U.S. Surgeon General shared a video of how to make your own fabric mask. Watch it below: