Mask Picture

Courtesy photo

Ludington Robotics coach Karen Shineldecker models what the 3D-printed masks look like.

Ludington High School’s Robotics Club, better known as the O-Bots, has found a different way of staying active while helping the community while area schools are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Karen Shineldecker, the coach of the O-Bots, said that the club has been sewing face masks to donate to local hospitals as hospital supplies seem to be low all across the country.

“The kids really wanted to help and give back, and I thought that sewing masks was a great way to do so,” Shineldecker said.

Most extracurricular activities screeched to a halt when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered schools closed on March 16. Normally, the robotics club would be continuing its season and pursuit of another journey to the world tournament. Instead, they’re trying to give back.

Not only is the club sewing masks, Shineldecker said, but they were also able to find a model online to help with the production of 3D printed face masks that are reusable.

“When I found the STL file online, I figured I might as well try it out. Once I got one printed off and put it on, it felt better than the cloth masks that we had been making,” she said.

To put the mask together, an N95 mask is needed to make the filters. The N95 mask is cut into six filters that can be used in the 3D printed mask.

This, as Shineldecker pointed out, allows the mask to be reused everyday while also making a singular N95 mask last six uses rather than one.

Shineldecker says it takes about three hours to print off one mask, but is looking for ways to speed up the process.

“We’d like to be able to print as many as we can to help as many people as possible,” she said. “We can even make the masks at a smaller scale if need be which is really nice.”

Although most hospitals aren’t allowing donations of 3D-printed supplies just yet, Shineldecker said that she understands that with it being a new product, hospitals will want to know everything about them before getting them.

“Obviously, they want to make sure they are sanitary to use, but in my use with them they really are,” she said. “You can scrub them with soap and water when you’re done using them or even throw it in the dishwasher.”

Shineldecker did note that the Western Michigan University’s Sindecuse Health Center is allowing the donation of 3D-printed masks and that there will be a shipment sent their way later this week.