Distance Learning Blog


By: Sara Reinthaler

We’ve seen lots of individuals and families coming together to make products like masks and face shields in their own homes (we have some of these people in our own school community), but have you ever wondered what makerspaces might be doing with their high tech digital fabrication equipment to help during the pandemic?

Lots of challenges and concerns have come up in hospitals and other essential businesses due to the way that the highly contagious virus Covid-19 spreads, and everyone in these industries is scrambling to create new products and protocols to address these issues. 

By its very nature, the maker community is perfectly equipped for this very thing - problem solving using innovative thinking and design is what makers DO.  And they have risen to the challenge in droves. 

Some school makerspaces have been converted into prototype testing labs and mini factories as teachers and community makers work to come up with innovative designs to solve new problems that have arisen in hospitals. 

design drawing for intubation box

Large laser cutters and CNC routers are being used to cut parts for intubation boxes which provide a physical barrier for a doctor who needs to be in close contact with a patient who might be infected.  The box is able to be sanitized between patients.


face mask being printed on 3d printer

3d printers are being used to make everything from ventilator parts to hands free door handles, face shields, and hard masks with replaceable filters. Most designs are open-source, meaning that anyone who has an idea on how to improve upon them is welcome to make an iteration. 

3d printed surgical mask extender

One of the helpful tools being 3d printed is a face mask extender which ensures a secure fit of a surgical or homemade mask while preventing rubbing on the ears of the doctors and nurses who are often required to wear masks for their entire shifts.  If you have a 3D printer at home, you can find many versions of these. 

Here is one: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4249113

3 types of mask extender designs

Even if you don’t have a laser cutter or 3D printer at home, you can still help.  Mask extenders can be made from fabric and buttons, snaps, or even velcro.  Here are a few designs I have made (all of my designs are between 5-7 inches in length).  

What can you make with what you have in  your home?  Do you know how to make a friendship bracelet?  Can you finger knit?  Do you crochet?  See if you can come up with a design for a mask extender and then check with a doctor/nurse/first responder you know to see if they might be able to use them.  Or pair up with someone already making masks and see if you can drop your designs together to a local hospital in need. 

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By: Gigi  

A few weeks ago, right when quarantine started, I got bored very easily sitting in the house all day, bickering with my brother because we were together all the time. Knitting hats became boring if that’s all I did. Rainbow looming was fun, but I was already getting way too much screen time from digital school. I had already read all the books in my room, and I didn’t feel like reading them again. I knew there was something I could do myself to help the Coronavirus. But what? Make a vaccine? Of course not. Make toilet paper? I don’t think so. Then my mom saw an email her old sewing teacher sent to her. The teacher needed people to sew cotton masks for doctors. According to the CDC, fabric masks are a crisis response option while other supplies have been exhausted. I can do this, I thought. I love sewing, and I have a ton of cotton fabric with cool patterns. 

8th grade student sewing masks on machine

The post said that because all the N95 Masks were being used to treat COVID-19 patients, there were no more for the other nurses in the hospital who weren’t treating COVID-19 patients. They were risking their lives and their patient’s lives with no surgical masks, making the spread of germs much more likely.  I decided I had to do something about this. Doing some research, I went to https://www.deaconess.com/How-to-make-a-Face-Mask to watch a tutorial. All you need is some elastic and two 6x9 rectangles of fabric, pins, and a sewing machine. (You can hand sew it as well, but I highly recommend using a machine.) 

It’s true that cotton masks don’t work as well as the N95 masks preferably used. But because these masks are on long back-orders due to high demand, other doctors who aren’t treating COVID-19 are out of masks. According to the Deaconess Health System website, “Prior to modern disposable masks, washable fabric masks were standard use for hospitals,” says Dawn Rogers, MSN, RN, FNP-C, Patient Safety and Infection Prevention Office at Deaconess Hospital in Texas. “We will be able to sterilize these masks and use them repeatedly as needed. While it’s less than ideal, we want to do our best to protect our staff and patients during this pandemic.”

masks made by 8th grade student

Gigi's latest mask order for a police officer and a nurse in Newark

My mom texted her friend, who is a nurse at Lenox Hill Hospital, about the masks I was making. She was grateful and said they would be a huge help. For one day of work, a nurse needs approximately 12 masks. After work hours, these masks can be washed and dried. I sewed some, and my mom’s friend Alison sewed the others. Together, we made 18 masks in total. After we delivered them, more nurses from around New Jersey have since heard that I am sewing masks. I get emails nearly every day from different nurses! My masks have gone to Holy Name this past week, and I will be making more for Lenox Hill and Valley Hospital.

It might sound tedious to sew masks all the time, but when you know it’s for someone who is in need of one, it’s worth it. It feels good to do good.

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