A pair of Smith-Cotton High School teachers are leading a coalition that will provide face shields for Bothwell Regional Health Center and the Sedalia Fire Department.

Project Lead The Way teacher Rush Walters was approached by a community member about using his department’s 3D printers to create masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus. Walters reached out to a friend who works at Bothwell to gauge the need and understand the best way to help.

Walters started by making a copy of the standard N95 surgical mask.

“We printed them and they weren’t necessarily the best, of course, but we thought it might be able to help out in some way,” he said.

S-C engineering teacher Michael Wright, who coaches the school’s robotics team, Team SCREAM, then learned about another option.

“A lot of it came from the FIRST (Robotics) community in general. All of these robotics competitions were canceled and teams were looking around,” Wright said. “Engineers being the problem-solvers that they are wanted to find a good solution to help out.”

Different robotics teams and companies nationwide came out with ideas of what to print, including the teams from Camdenton and Knob Noster high schools printing parts for face shields.

Courtesy of Sedalia School District 200
A 3D printer at Smith-Cotton High School creates a face shield frame.

“All of these local teams who we are friends with had these different projects going on,” Wright said.

The face shield plastic is being donated by The Potter's House Church in Camdenton; members had followed early news updates about COVID-19 and wanted to be prepared with an outreach effort that would be of service to their community. The church accumulated enough plastic to make about 14,000 shields.

The teachers got original printing guidelines from PRUSA, a 3D printer manufacturer, and modified the design, reducing it so the top and bottom frame pieces are still functional but cost less and take less time to make. They searched online and found inexpensive bands that hold the shields in place.

“When that came around and we showed that to Bothwell, they loved them and said they would take as many as they could get,” Walters said

S-C’s 3D printers can fabricate parts for 30 face shields every 24 hours. Maxion Wheels and Prysmian Group have joined the effort and are printing the frame pieces, but Walters and Wright welcome other local companies who have 3D printers to lend a hand, as well.

Courtesy of Sedalia School District 200
Rush Walters, a Project Lead the Way teacher at Smith-Cotton High School, displays a face shield that will be donated to Bothwell Regional Health Center. Walters uses a 3D printer to create the top and bottom frames for the shield.

“We’re doing the best we can as fast as we can,” said Walters, who added that Bothwell’s reaction to the prototype made him more excited to get the project going. He and Wright applauded Stone Laser Imaging, which also is making face shields for local use.

"We are thankful for all the community support our hospital has received over the last few weeks," said Lori Wightman, Bothwell CEO. "Organizations across the country are searching for additional personal protective equipment and with help from our community we've been able to ensure we have supplies to protect our employees."