While the Longwood campus might be quieter than usual this time of year, it’s still humming.
Some of that activity is the hum of 3D printers making the parts for protective visors and face shields that has been emanating from French Hall, Stevens Hall and from other locations across the town of Farmville.
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in March, a community effort has been underway on Longwood’s campus to help make and provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to local first responders on the front lines of the pandemic.
In the midst of this pandemic, we need citizen leaders more now than ever, and people at Longwood are stepping up to serve in some pretty incredible ways.Josh Blakely, director of Brock Experiences Tweet This
The combined effort by Longwood faculty and staff from departments across campus ultimately produced about 150 visors and 300 protective face shields. The items were provided to the Prince Edward Rescue Squad, Charlotte County Rescue Squad, Meherrin Fire Department, Prince Edward County Sheriff’s Office, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and Farmville Police Department, as well as a few clinics and community service groups.
Robin Stone, a senior computer systems engineer in Longwood’s Information Technology Services department, said he was initially inspired by a Facebook post from a friend in North Carolina who was using 3D printers to make PPE.
“I had two 3D printers staring at me idle while I was teleworking. I did a little research and found a simple, popular design that utilized overhead projector plastic film for the shield. So I started printing,” Stone said. “The one issue I had was I didn’t have the plastic sheets, but that’s where Longwood came in.”
We saw this as a way to provide encouragement to our students. We are confident many students are making positive contributions safely while meeting the challenges of this event.Dr. Alix Fink, Wilma Register Sharp and Marc Boyd Sharp Dean of the Honors College Tweet This
Stone discovered there were a few boxes of plastic sheets from 1987 tucked away in an ITS supply closet in French Hall. He asked Mark Kendrick, associate vice president for Information Technology Services, if he could use them for the PPE project.
“When he came back and said I could, then it was game on,” Stone said.
By this point, others in the Longwood community and in Farmville had heard about the project and were interested in joining the effort. While Stone was the point person for collecting and distributing the shield frames, there was a large behind-the-scenes effort of people from all over campus who contributed. Representatives from Hampden-Sydney College and Fuqua School pitched in as well.
Faculty members and students from the Cormier Honors College for Citizen Scholars were among those who got involved with the 3D printing of PPE parts. Jim Wiecking, program administrator for the Honors College, did a lot of the printing using the university’s 3D printers.
“What I did was really just pushing the ‘go’ button on a regular basis,” he said. “There were others who really drove the program.”
Dr. Alix Fink encouraged the Honors College staff and students to demonstrate examples of community and service—two of the guiding pillars for the Honors College—that would support other Longwood efforts and aid local organizations.
“We saw this as a way to provide encouragement to our students,” said Fink, the Wilma Register Sharp and Marc Boyd Sharp Dean of the Honors College. “We are confident many students are making positive contributions safely while meeting the challenges of this event.”
The original goal was to produce a few shields for local rescue squads, but, after word of the project spread, it quickly grew to a much larger effort.
Josh Blakely, director of Brock Experiences, got involved by printing ear savers for elastic mask bands and also sewing jigs to help speed up the sewing process for homemade masks. Blakely said the effort to support the community was a natural response given Longwood’s underlying mission.
“One of the things I love the most about the Lancer community is that we truly live our mission of creating citizen leaders for the common good,” Blakely said. “In the midst of this pandemic, we need citizen leaders more now than ever, and people at Longwood are stepping up to serve in some pretty incredible ways.”
Among those instrumental in the effort were Mark White, director of Communications Technology Services; Jacob Dolence, an Honors College faculty scholar; and the staff at Greenwood Library, including Dean Brent Roberts and Technology and Library Information Specialist Irene Girgente, who provided the files and the links necessary to get the 3D printers going. Members of Longwood’s public safety team also were involved.