By Karen Prengaman

When  Arcadia High School’s STEAM and Robotics students opened their online class enrichment page, they were met with a special message from their teacher, Chris Matthews: 

“Greetings everyone! One of the most difficult things to do these days seems to be sitting still! What have I been doing to keep busy? I set up a 3D Printing farm to produce ventilation masks to help with the shortage.”

When Matthews learned of the critical shortages of PPE at Riverside Hospital, he was sure he could find a way to help.  Arcadia High School (Oak Hall, VA) has a robust STEAM program. As the primary instructor in the program, he was sure that its equipment could be brought to bear to solve the mask shortage.  Matthews searched the internet and struck gold: the Montana Mask. Designed by dentist’s in Montana (Dr. Dusty Richardson, Dr. Spencer Zaugg and Colton Zaugg) the Montana Mask provides an effective filtration mechanism for institutions facing critical shortages. They created a website to share their design with others who were looking for a way to reduce the critical need.

Matthews contacted Arcadia’s administration and received authorization to use the high school’s printers to see if the Montana Mask could work.  His first masks, 6 large and 6 medium masks, were delivered to Riverside hospital in late March. They were a success. The printers have been going non-stop ever since.  Another 36 are bagged up and ready for delivery this week.  

Along with his girlfriend, the two check and reset the printers, and, once the masks are done, sand the rough masks and add elastic and face seals.  His kids are a big help too. They know how to set up the prints and do basic maintenance.  

Matthews’ students are in on the project as well.  Matthews has set up a Wiki so that they can follow the mask production process.   It is hard to imagine a better real-world application for their studies or a better way to continue to enrich their education as they self isolate at home.  On a macro-level, the project reinforces the benefits of investing in the education of our students and the teachers that inspire them.

The masks are, of course, provided to the hospital free of charge.  They are made from materials that are already on hand, although some of the material (weatherstripping for the face shields) is in short supply.  Teachers are pitching in to get these materials to Matthews. On his school Wiki, Matthews includes a quote from Mark Twain that bears repeating: “Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”  To that, one might add the phrase Arcadia students say to each other every day, “We got you.”

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