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FHS Robotics Team Prints 3D Masks for Healthcare Heroes

The FHS Science Department and Robotics Team are collaborating on a new project—3D printed face masks for healthcare workers. Last week, science teacher/VEX Robotics coach Ann Grady and VEX volunteer and team mentor Jerry Dubuke donated 20 plastic masks to Catholic Health Services that were created on a 3D printer. The FHS Robotics Team provided the revenue for the materials, using funds generated from the January tournament they hosted at FHS and through community sponsors. 

When schools shut down in March, teachers were instructed to bring home resources that could be used for remote learning. “By that time, the team was already trying to figure out what we could do to help,” said Ms. Grady. She and Mr. Dubuke added the 3D printer (recently installed in the new STEAM workspace in the high school) to their take-home supplies, and went to work researching a mask design that would help healthcare workers. 

After some troubleshooting and tweaking of the design, they began printing the Montana Mask, which was developed by a dental practice. “We wanted to make reusable stuff so the healthcare workers could conserve what supplies they had,” said Ms. Grady. “This mask needs only a small section of N95 fabric that can be replaced, thereby getting multiple uses from each medical mask.” 

“It takes twelve hours to print two masks and it’s tricky,” said Ms. Grady. “You need to be on top of the printer, make sure you always have enough plastic loaded, and begin it at a time that doesn’t have you up in the middle of the night.” In addition to her around-the-clock printing, Ms. Grady is also remotely teaching sixty science class students, so sleep is important! 

She had purchased a small supply of the N95 fabric before the pandemic, but is already running low. “Healthcare systems understandably have priority access to the N95 fabric.” said Ms. Grady. “We intend to keep making them, but there have been some delays in getting the plastic and the elastic delivered. We are also waiting on feedback to see if our design is practical, or if it needs any tweaking.” 

“Our students have learned to consider how they can help others in moments of crisis, which is a lesson you want taught before adulthood,” said FHS Principal Dr. Samuel Thompson. “We couldn’t be prouder of the altruistic and selfless efforts of the robotics team and their advisors.” 

The Robotics Team is actively fundraising to buy the materials that will allow them to keep printing. To donate, go to:

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