WVU Extension Service 4-H robotics team making masks for health care workers


Members of the Monroe County 4-H Robotics Team have been hard at work building face shields using 3D printers. The group delivered their first batch of the protective shields to health care workers in Monroe and Summers counties. (WVU Photo)

UNION, W.Va. – The nationally-recognized West Virginia University Extension Service Monroe County MCubed (M3) 4-H Robotics Team is lending its talents to the fight against coronavirus.

It all started when the mayor of Union called upon members to assist in making protective gear for West Virginia medical professionals and health care providers, according to WVU.

A release from WVU said Mayor Caroline Sparks knew medical supplies, including masks and shields, would be difficult for West Virginia communities to get, so she set out to find solutions. Sparks’ son, Riley, is a member of MCubed, and she knew she had a great resource to call upon for help.

“Monroe County has a long history of being self-sufficient and self-reliant. So as not to yet be a burden on the system, I sought a solution,” said Sparks. “As a mom of a MCubed 4-H robotics team member, I knew how these kids designed in CAD and printed their own parts on a 3D printer for this season’s robot. The team even went and taught a class at each school on how to use the printers. I called the team coach and told her about the idea of using the 3D printers to make safety equipment. She put the team in action, and we were able to distribute the first batch of face shields on April 1. I believe these kids exemplify the true meaning of 4-H’s head, heart, hands and health.”

Using digital technology, a 3D printer and ingenuity, the robotics team spent hours printing and creating nearly 40 face shields in three days to provide to local health care facilities in Monroe and Summers counties. The team was able to use money raised to attend the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship, which has been canceled, to make the shields.

“Working with our community leaders, including our school superintendent and mayor, we were able to gain access to some of the 3D printers that our robotics team helped secure last fall,” said Don Dransfield, WVU Extension Service 4-H Agent for Monroe County. “The team provided a prototype to one of our local health care professionals to try and approve, then, the team got to work making the shields. We’re really proud of how these young people stepped up to assist during this public health crisis.”

“We saw on the news that there was a shortage of protective equipment in the medical field due to this current pandemic. Our coach found that Prusa, a 3D printer company, provided files and instructions to 3D print PPE to donate. It is crucial that medical staff have this equipment to protect themselves while helping others,” said Monroe County MCubed 4-H Robotics Team member Ian Jackson.

“As club leaders, we just facilitate and support their work. The kids raised the money necessary to purchase the supplies and applied their technical skills to help the community,” said Monroe County 4-H Robotics Leader Callie McMunigal.

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