A 3D printer purchased by an elementary school with funds from Southern Nuclear is not only benefiting students – it’s being used in the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19).
Staff at Bryan Elementary in Morris, Alabama, outside Birmingham, bought the printer last summer with a $2,000 donation requested by Carin England, a legal specialist in Southern Nuclear’s General Counsel office. England’s daughter attends the school, which was starting a STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics – program.
According to Christy Hamilton, the school’s principal, “Using the 3D printer and Tinkercad software has given the students opportunities to utilize many skills, especially math skills, in a fun and engaging way.”
For example, Chad Kennedy, the STEAM teacher, used Tinkercad with fourth and fifth grade students to design 3D Christmas ornaments. Then the students used the 3D printer to print the ornaments to hang on their Christmas trees at home.
However, once the pandemic began and school closed, Hamilton and Kennedy came up with a new use for the printer.
“A parent sent me an article that had been posted by someone in the Huntsville area on how to use a 3D printer to put together face shields for health care workers,” Hamilton says. “I sent the article to Mr. Kennedy, and we decided to try to make some.”
“The article contained the printing file, and I just used a CAD (computer-aided design) program to tweak it,” Kennedy says. “The cost per part isn’t expensive, but it takes about three hours and 15 minutes to print one.”
After Kennedy prints the plastic frame, Hamilton adds the shield, with someone else attaching the straps that keep the shield in place on the wearer’s face.
The first 15 face shields went to St. Vincent's East emergency room staff. “We’ve received requests from nurses whose kids go to Bryan,” says Kennedy. “They want shields for themselves and each of their coworkers. We’ve made 50-60 shields and also provided them to UAB and Children's hospitals. There’s a bigger need than we can meet.”
Even so, “We are very excited that we are able to play a small part in helping area health care workers,” Hamilton says. “We can't thank Southern Nuclear enough for funding our printer. We hope to continue to giving back to our community using the 3D printer.”
England is excited as well. “Southern Nuclear is helping our communities with these charitable funds,” she says, “and those that receive the donations turn around and use them to do good deeds.”