WATERTOWN — Joining an ever growing effort to create needed protective equipment for local healthcare workers and emergency personnel, students from Jefferson Community College have taken the school’s 3D printers home to produce parts for face shields and ear savers for masks.
The printing project began with area schools, and the list of those involved has grown to include manufacturing companies, architects and various community members, as well as the college.
JCC has set two students in the school’s C-STEP program up with 3D printers at their homes to manufacture face shields. C-STEP is Jefferson’s Collegiate Science Technology Entry Program. The program, directed by Deanna Lothrop, works to promote academic success and student preparation for majors leading to careers in mathematics, science, technology and health-related fields and licensed professions.
The two students volunteering time to work on this project on top of classwork are freshman Jasmine Thorpe and sophomore engineering student Logan Christopher.
Printing visors and clips for face shields, Ms. Thorpe said she was told about the opportunity about two weeks ago, and officially given the school’s printer last week. Since then, she has printed about 24 parts.
“They recently just ordered us to halt printing because we’ve passed our quota by like 600,” she said. “We’re on break right now, but we’re going to be reaching out to Jefferson County Emergency Services to see if anyone needs shields so we can go back into production. In the meantime, we will be starting to print ‘ear savers’ for masks to make them more comfortable.”
As with others currently making printed parts, Ms. Thorpe is using PLA, plant-based plastic filament, for her printing and has used the Budmen 3D design. Once the parts have been printed, they’re picked up by another member of the effort and taken to BOCES for assembly.
Ms. Thorpe, 18, was originally attending JCC for engineering, but the Evans Mills resident switched her major to technology education out of a desire to inspire youth to go into engineering fields.
Currently taking four classes, which have all switched to an online mode of instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she said her workload is a bit crazy and she’s been struggling with it, but that didn’t stop her from accepting the added responsibility of taking one of the school’s two 3D printers to help out with manufacturing parts.
Because she is in a lot of advanced classes, like calculus and chemistry, Ms. Thorpe is spending multiple hours a day going through lectures and completing coursework, so it’s been a bit difficult balancing the classes and printing, but she said 3D printing is fairly easy once everything is set up.
“I have a timer set on my phone to know when it’s time to go back downstairs, I keep the printers downstairs,” she said. “Sometimes I’ve missed a class or started falling behind, but luckily the professors’ record sessions so I can catch up, they have been super understanding.”
Ms. Thorpe doesn’t know if her professors are aware of why she cannot always attend the early video lectures, the reason being she stays up working until about 3 a.m., but she appreciates their leniency in letting her miss lectures and still submit work.
Because she is currently living at home, she said she tries to not print past midnight because of the noise, so then she works on homework because during the day sometimes she needs breaks and isn’t able to finish everything.
While JCC currently has two printers, Ms. Thorpe has her own printer she bought in the 11th grade.
She said she bought her own because of technology teacher Dustin Burdick at Indian River.
“He showed me the wonders of 3D printing and why I should go into a STEM field,” she said. “He also encouraged me to buy my own printer and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
When she has printer troubles, she said she can count on Mr. Burdick when she calls for help.
As a freshman, Ms. Thorpe is grateful to her college and its C-STEP director for giving her this opportunity to help make a difference in the community while she’s at home.
“A lot of cases have been happening in New York City so a lot of the pieces, non-printed face shields, are sent to the city first before the north country,” she said. “Once we found out that our local hospital had been having such an issue with equipment, the focus has been making sure hospitals get what they need. I think this is an important community effort where people are coming together rather than drawing apart.”