Local school districts make protective shields for front-line workers during pandemic

Local school districts are joining the movement to make protective gear for first responders and healthcare professionals in hopes of staving off a supply shortage during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jana Vance, the superintendent of the Rochester Community School Corp., said she and the school attorney researched the idea of using 3-D printing technology to create parts for protective shields that would then be donated to Fulton County first responders. Vance asked her 16-year-old son, Dryden, who takes STEM classes, if he could figure out how to operate the 3-D printer at Rochester Community High School.

He agreed to help.

"A few hours later, he was in the lab. He's continuing to print those out, even today," said Jana Vance.

Dryden said he doesn't mind the extra work amid eLearning assignments. In just one week, he made 100 protective shields. The shield part is cut from clean, 2-liter Pepsi bottles.

"It's been a fun learning experience for me and just to know I'm able to help however many people it helps is a really good feeling, too," explained Dryden Vance.

The assembly line in Rochester inspired Ben Anderson, the principal of South Central Jr.-Sr. High School in LaPorte County. Jana Vance explained their shield-making process. Anderson then enlisted the help of the high school's assistant director of technology, who has printed roughly 50 parts for protective shields, so far. The shield part is made from an overhead projector transparency.

"We're just trying to do anything we can to help our community and our local first responders," stated Anderson.

Some shields were donated to the LaPorte County Sheriff's Office. Others will be given to Franciscan Hospital in Michigan City, LaPorte County EMS, and other area healthcare professionals.

Zac Lechlitner, a technology teacher at Northwood High School, has printed 45 protective shields that will be donated to the Elkhart County Health Department.

South Central Jr.-Sr. High School is accepting donations of 3-D printer filament and old overhead projector transparencies. To drop those off, please contact the school at (219) 767-2266 or send an e-mail: banderson@scentral.k12.in.us

Rochester Community High School will take any clean and empty, 2-liter Pepsi bottles. Those can be dropped off at the front of the high school located at 1645 S. Park Road in Rochester.