Heathwood Makerspace Repurposed to Create Medical Masks

Monday, April 6, 2020

Heathwood's Makerspace may be currently closed to students, but its equipment is still being put to great use, making frames for the medical masks that are so essential in the fight against Covid-19.

Computer Science Teacher Tom Simpson has been coming to the Makerspace to use the school’s 3D printers to build the strong plastic frames that are needed to ensure that masks worn by doctors, nurses, and other front-line responders are secure and safe. Working from a design template created by a doctor in Idaho, Mr. Simpson has deployed all four of the 3D printers in the Makerspace to create the masks. While the construction process is slow, each printer builds three masks at once and can produce two sets a day, meaning the school can make up to 24 masks each day. Production began on March 26 and will continue for as long as it is both possible and necessary.

The mask project was the brainchild of Heathwood parent Margaret Clarkson, who was aware of the mask shortage and whose daughter, Heathwood sophomore M Roney, is a frequent user of the school’s Makerspace. Mrs. Clarkson delivered the first set of masks to Heathwood parent Brian Smith at Lexington Medical Center on April 3. She delivered a set to PRISMA Health on April 6. And she passed some on to Charleston's Roper St. Francis Hospital System via Heathwood parent and Roper St. Francis surgeon Hugh Willcox, who has volunteered to care for patients with Covid-19.

For Mr. Simpson, who continues to teach 3D design and robotics classes remotely, putting the Makerspace to use for the good of the community has added purpose and meaning to a difficult time. “Medical grade masks need to be really secure,” he said, “and I’m just glad we have the equipment and the capacity to help provide them.”