Local school boards still making face shields, other PPE

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Both the Upper Grand and Wellington Catholic District school boards have a bustling cottage industry going alongside student learning: making personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers.

Charles Benyair, Specialist High Skills Majors and Technological Education Curriculum Lead for the Upper Grand board, said his staff started in late March to collect the board’s 3-D printers from schools and deliver them to teachers willing to take on a role in producing face shields. They haven’t stopped.

“We were seeing in the news that face shields were needed, so we looked at some designs and saw we could produce them. We now have a network of teachers doing this,” he told the Advertiser in late April, adding they have donated some 500 face shields to Groves hospital, Guelph General, St. Joseph’s and other emergency responders.

Benyair said he has teachers producing the shields in their homes while others are involved in picking up and delivering them where needed. He expects they will continue until there is no more need.

“This is completely teacher-driven,” he said. “We can’t just watch and not do anything about it. This demonstrates to students that these 3-D printers can do things for real. It’s not just theory.”

Tamara Nugent, director of education for the Wellington Catholic District School Board, said as well as making face shields with their 3-D printers, staff and families are also sewing hospital gowns and caps.

“There are a lot of examples of how care and service to the community involves learning,” she said. “This is not only a service to the community, but a great example for students.”

Student initiative

Jack Cox, a student at Centre Wellington District High School, has also been making face shields with his family’s 3-D printer.

Jack has been using 3-D printers since elementary school and they were used in the manufacturing course he took first semester, he said.

“Anything you can think of, you can do with a 3-D printer,” he said. “I’ll make face shields till the end of this corona thing. I’m glad to help.”

His father, Trevor Cox, said Jack has figured out how to make cookie cutters, a part to repair the sprayer on his grandfather’s tractor, and cell phone holders to fit on a bike.

“It’s amazing what you can do with one of these things; the problems you can solve,” said Trevor Cox.