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Mount St. Mary’s Prints Face Shields for Local Nursing Home

face shield feature

From left to right, Garth Patterson, Kraig Sheetz and Nick Hutchings

“I have a choice: I can either step forward and do something meaningful and help those around me, or I can just sit back and observe,” said local resident Bill Hartman amid the global pandemic. “I’m choosing to step forward.”

shield-2-text.jpgIn an email to President Timothy E. Trainor, Ph.D., Hartman asked Mount St. Mary’s University to help serve the most vulnerable individuals within our local community. St. Joseph’s Place (formerly St. Catherine’s Nursing Center), a 106-bed skilled nursing facility, requested 125 face shields in order to protect their staff and residents from the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“A friend of mine read an article indicating the Mount had a 3-D printer,” Hartman recalled. “I read about other printers being used in similar situations and it made sense to reach out to your university.” He was confident the Mount would step forward to meet the need.

Little did he know the Mount had several 3-D printers.

Within days, Kraig Sheetz, Ph.D., dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics, enlisted the help of Assistant Professor of Chemistry Garth Patterson, Ph.D., and Associate Professor of Visual and Performing Arts Nick Hutchings, M.F.A.

“Frederick County had a problem and an advocate [Bill Hartman] and we had two people who like a good challenge and feel strongly about serving the community,” Sheetz said.

Where Science Meets Art

Both professors use their printers for research, problem solving and creativity in their classrooms. “My Prusa MK3 printer was purchased using faculty development grants provided by the university,” Patterson wrote in an email. Two years ago Hutchings worked together with Director of Development Kim Johnson, MBA’18, to write and secure grant money from the Delaplaine Foundation for his two Ultimaker 3 printers.

After test printing a published design from the National Institutes of Health, Patterson researched and found Prusa, his printer’s manufacturer, published a similar headband design that was easier to replicate. Due to state and local quarantine restrictions, the two professors brought their printers home and started printing around the clock in their makeshift workspaces. 

“I printed four at a time; that took 12 hours and 14 minutes—basically eight a day minus defects,” Patterson said.

“The files took 11 hours on my printers; they are slower to print but incredibly reliable and I have been printing with a sturdy PLA plastic,” Hutchings said. 

shiled-in-text.jpgAll that’s required to print is the forehead bracket. The face shield as a complete unit contains a forehead bracket, a transparency film that acts as the “shield” itself and an elastomer band to hold it on the user’s head, Patterson clarified. A top piece can be added to reduce contamination and a bottom stiffener to make the shield more robust.

Assembly included using a standard 3-hole punch to make mounting holes in the transparency film. “There are three mounting points the transparency fits over and there are tie off points for the elastomer to fit around the user’s head,” Patterson explained. Hutchings added glue for durability and an extra piece of electrical tape to support the shield.

The Mount Way

“The artist and scientist have been absolutely marvelous,” Hartman exclaimed. “I’m not sure which of the two went as far as getting transparencies and making holes and actually putting together full units, but I was immensely impressed!”

Both professors volunteered their time in addition to teaching full course loads remotely. There were challenges along the way, but Sheetz, Patterson and Hutchings worked together overcoming designs, updates, broken printer parts and creative use of materials, in service of the end users.

“We talk all the time about how real problems in life are interdisciplinary,” Sheetz asserted. “Here we saw just one intersection of arts and science and that is the passion for using maker spaces to bring creativity to our disciplines. It’s the kind of thing we want our students to witness so they too can develop the habits of mind to solve ill-defined problems.”

As of May 1, the Mount has printed and assembled 55 face shields and provided them to Hartman for delivery to St. Joseph’s Place. Sheetz, Patterson and Hutchings are working to obtain more materials and supplies necessary to complete another 60-70 face shields as quickly as possible.

Focus on the Opportunities

Three weeks ago Hartman, like millions of Americans, lost his job due to the pandemic. His training as a technical professional, with manufacturing and factory experience in alternate energy management and solar energy with companies like Tesla and BP, had taught him to focus on the opportunities. 

While Patterson and Hutchings printed face shields, Hartman continued his efforts and linked with Elizabeth Buckman of Emmitsburg Cares, a group of individuals who serve the local community, to create the Emmitsburg Community Emergency PPE Team (ECEPT).  

Together, their network collected monetary donations, procured materials to sew 1,000 facemasks, made and organized kits and established a no-contact system of creation, delivery and distribution. Hartman worked with Vice President and Chief Development Officer Robin Rose at Frederick Memorial Hospital who shared the design for the material facemasks needed to preserve the life of N-95 masks that are in short supply around the world.

As of May 1, ECEPT donated 500 facemasks to Frederick Health.

“I knew there would be people willing to help, but maybe they needed an introduction or a catalyst to get involved in meaningful ways,” he said. “I think we rate ourselves as a society as to how we rise to the occasion to protect the helpless.”

Mindful of the Needs of Others

Hutchings, illuminated by the blue lights of his printers at night, says his tiny effort wouldn’t be possible without a Delaplaine Foundation grant. In 2019, when philanthropist George B. Delaplaine was asked what makes a meaningful life, he told Mount Magazine “I’ll tell you. It’s to do as much for the community as you possibly can. Loving others—it’s in my religion. Every time I give the blessing, I say ‘Make us always mindful of the needs of others.’”

Hartman, a very recent Emmitsburg transplant living in Carroll County, says the Mount is a special place. “It can be seen as just a regular school—but underneath the surface not every place has what the Mount does… it’s something to be proud of. The most important thing here is there’s history between the Mount and Emmitsburg. Whenever one part needs something, the other part rises to the challenge,” Hartman reflected. “That’s a big deal.”