Local robotics team prints 3D face shields for health care workers

The robotics team, from left to right, consists of Jacob Doughty, co-captain and lead programmer; Naythan Chan, programmer; Garrek Chan, team co-captain and lead engineer; and Kastien Chambliss, outreach.

To help address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), a local high school robotics team has been making 3D-printed face shields and donating them to hospitals.

“We started because we heard about the PPE shortage in hospitals around the country, and we knew with our resources and our 3D printing ability, we could truly make a difference and contribute to the effort,” said Garrek Chan, a high school student who is homeschooled and lives in Solana Beach.

Due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, PPE supplies such as face masks, disposable gloves and other items have been in high demand, leaving many health care workers vulnerable to infection.

The face shields, made with the team’s two 3D printers, are being donated to Scripps Memorial Hospital and Sharp Rees-Stealy. The team’s goal is to make 800 face shields, which it expects to reach soon.

Garrek and his friends also started a GoFundMe page with a $2,000 goal. Funds will go toward purchasing the materials they need for printing and assembly, including filament and plastic shields. Each face shield takes a few hours to assemble, and the four-member robotics team delivers them to the hospitals.

The team, FTC GarageBot #15146, was preparing to compete for a world championship at a robotics competition in Houston, Texas. Then the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, led to the cancellations of almost all events nationwide to help stop the spread.

Garrek said he and his team members were disappointed, but quickly saw the opportunity to use their skills to help local health care workers.

The group, comprising two homeschooled students and two Santa Fe Christian students, reached out to hospitals to tell them about the models they were making, and then provided samples.

“They were super grateful, and expressed a lot of interest,” Garrek said.

He added that the team received a message about the face shields from Sharp Rees-Stealy that said it was “heartwarming to know that they were crafted by a dedicated team of compassionate and community-minded students.”

Many other local residents and organizations have been donating PPE, food or whatever else they can offer to health care workers, some of whom are isolating from their families and bearing additional risks of contracting COVID-19. In some cases, shelter-in-place orders have also brought families closer together.

“It’s made me reflect on what’s important,” said Garrek, who will graduate high school in 2021. “It’s really allowed me to spend more time with my family, my friends, my robotics team.”

For more information, visit gofundme.com/f/face-shields-to-fight-covid