Students 3D print face shields for possible COVID-19 protection

Lisa R. Baldi
April 16, 2020

WYOMISSING, Pa. – When the call went out that help was needed creating face shields with the potential to be used for COVID-19 protection, Penn State Berks engineering students were eager to help. The students are joining Penn State Berks LaunchBox staff who are utilizing 3D printing technology to create a component of face shields.

The 3D-printed part, shaped like a semi-circle, wraps around the forehead of the user and is secured in the back by a rubber band or piece of elastic. 

In addition to creating the face shield component, some of the students are also producing 3D printed mask extenders to help with the ear irritation that often results from wearing face shields for an extended period of time.

Twelve Penn State Berks engineering students responded to the call put out by Marietta Scanlon, assistant teaching professor in engineering and program chair of the electro-mechanical engineering technology degree program at the college. Since April 9, those students, plus a student from another college, have joined the Berks LaunchBox team in printing face shield headbands and mask extenders. All students and staff members are working individually from their homes to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

"I had been reading about all the creative solutions using 3D printing and immediately knew this would be of great interest to our engineering students,” explained Scanlon. “I've worked closely with [the staff at] the LaunchBox and knew they'd … make the connection between our students and those in need.” 

“In a matter of days, I had contacted and organized 13 students to 3D print from their homes. The students are currently printing headbands and mask extenders and delivering them for assembly. They will continue until the need subsides. The students' response has been phenomenal, but I'd expect nothing less from this group. Their creativity, selflessness and willingness to help have been an inspiration."

The Berks LaunchBox ramped up production to fulfill needs of the Berks PPE Resource Network, a coalition of people and organizations across Berks County created for the production, collection and distribution of 3D face shields across the county to frontline workers and the most vulnerable to exposure to COVID-19.

“Three-D printing originally started as a hobby and it has now turned into a way to be able to help others, commented Madison Wojciechowski, a mechanical engineering student from Blandon, Pennsylvania. “This has been a great experience to be a part of and see everyone working together.

Mechanical engineering major Austin Wylie of Whitehall, Pennsylvania. added, “When I received an email asking students to 3D print a face shield component, I felt compelled to volunteer. I am happy to help contribute to the possible protection of frontline workers who are combating the COVID-19 pandemic.”

So far, the Berks LaunchBox students and staff have donated 200 face shields to Encompass Health. Another 800 headbands are ready to be donated; 400 of those were printed by the college’s engineering students and production is continuing at a steady pace. The students have also printed 170 mask extenders.

Michelle Hnath and Patricia Leshinskie, both facility coordinators at the Berks LaunchBox, play an important role in coordinating the 3D printing of the component and assembling many of the face shields. 

The following Penn State Berks engineering students are involved in the initiative: 

Alexander Bieber, Ryan Blankenbiller, Connor Burger, Dalton Butz, Kyle Daniels, Ahmed Hashish, Brett Martin, Jordan Randolph, Al Schneider, Jared Sprenkle, Madison Wojciechowski and Austin Wylie. In addition, Gabriel Moyer joined the effort. He is a friend of one of the students on the team. 

“My friend, Gabriel Moyer, and I are creating components for the face shields for people working on the front-lines. This is a team effort and we wanted to help. Watching without taking action was frustrating so doing this feels very fulfilling. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together,” states Dalton Butz, a mechanical engineering major from Pennsburg, Pa.

Albert Schneider Jr., an electro-mechanical engineering technology major from Schuylkill Haven, Pa., summarizes his experience, “I love that despite our obstacles, we're still able to come together and pool our resources to overcome adversity. It's not just a Penn State attribute but an American attribute. If we all help each other, we can get through this.” 

Penn State students interested in volunteering should contact Marietta Scanlon via email at mrs35@psu.edu

About the Berks LaunchBox

The mission of the Berks LaunchBox, located in suite 105 of the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in downtown Reading, is to support economic development and entrepreneurship. An innovation hub of Penn State Berks, the Berks LaunchBox connects local entrepreneurs to the support, resources, and facilities that they need to build sustainable and scalable businesses with a viable plan for growth. Services include assistance with prototyping, conducting market research, and connecting with mentors. The Berks LaunchBox offers entrepreneurship workshops, co-working space for startups, Meetups focused on business development, a makerspace with 3D printers for prototyping, and special youth programs.

The Berks LaunchBox is supported by Invent Penn State — a commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student success, launched by Penn State President Eric J. Barron in 2016. For more information, visit berkslaunchbox.psu.edu or contact Michelle Hnath, Berks LaunchBox facilities coordinator, at mah629@psu.edu or 610-396-6400.

'We Are' stories

The “We Are” spirit is perhaps more important than ever before, and Penn Staters everywhere are coming together in new and amazing ways. During these challenging times, our community is continuing to realize Penn State’s commitment to excellence through acts of collaboration, thoughtfulness and kindness. As President Eric Barron has written on Digging Deeper, this truly is a “We Are” moment — and we want to hear your “We Are” stories. 

Visit news.psu.edu/WeAre to share how you or other Penn Staters are supporting each other to overcome the collective challenges presented by the novel coronavirus. We are! 

Last Updated April 23, 2020