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School board uses 3D printers in the fight against COVID-19

Some printers are being used to print a part used in making face shields for medical workers
One of the Upper Grand District School Board's 3D printers making a part for a face shield. Supplied photo

The Upper Grand District School Board has repurposed some of its 3D printers to assist in the fight against COVID-19.

They’re printing personal protective equipment face braces that can be used to make face shields and distributing them through community partners so they can get to the medical community.

The board’s community partner InkSmith, a technology education company, provided the printable file for the face shield brace.

Charles Benyair said the board has many 3D printers because they have always promoted 21st century learning skills and technology. 

Benyair, the superintendent and other teachers realized they could help out when they saw a call to use 3D printers to make medical supplies on the news.

“We all realized almost at the same time ‘hey, we can do this,’” he said. “We can easily print these things and do our part to help what’s going on out there.”

Benyair said the board’s leadership was supportive of this initiative and did everything they could to make this happen safely. 

“It was a little bit difficult to pull together because of all the safety procedures,” Benyair said. “We pulled some of these printers from our technology classes and we’ve housed them in central locations.”

They have two printers running in Elora and five in Guelph. Benyair estimated they could produce 15 to 20 pieces per day as long as they don’t run into technical issues. 

“We developed a prototype a couple days ago and we’ve been printing them off ever since,” he said. “We will stockpile them and try to make large deliveries to safe locations so they can be distributed to the community.”

Jason Boyce, vice principal of Minto-Clifford public school, said his school has a printer that a teacher is running. Boyce has also been able to help out in Elora. 

“I live in Elora and have worked a lot with 3D printers for the past few years and was able to access Elora public school’s printer so that we can make the most of all the resources we have,” Boyce said by email. 

Benyair said many of the students at UGDSB schools are taught how to use printers as part of the curriculum and they could continue to print these parts if needed. 

“Kids have been using these machines for quite some time now and teachers teach their students how to do real life projects on it,” he said. “Right now we have the ability to implement a real life support system.”

Benyair thanks the Ministry of Education for SHSM funding that allowed them to buy 3D printers in the first place. 

“It’s really good that the premier and other people in the province are calling out for people to use 3D printers because it was the province that allowed us to buy them through their funding,” he said. “It’s great how it’s coming full circle now.”

Keegan Kozolanka

About the Author: Keegan Kozolanka

Keegan Kozolanka covers civic matters under the Local Journalism initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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