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Anna ISD Students and Staff Continue to Create Beyond the Walls of Makerspace

Anna ISD Students and Staff Continue to Create Beyond the Walls of Makerspace
Posted on 04/14/2020
Early in our at-home learning process, Anna ISD Makerspace Integration Technology Specialist Emily Burk posted the “Make a Mask” challenge to encourage Anna High School Makerspace Club students and staff to create masks as acts of kindness during the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. Little did Mrs. Burk know that this challenge would not only be accepted but would take off into something much bigger for healthcare workers and first responders.

The Anna ISD connection really began when AHS Spanish teacher Martha Rodriguez saw and accepted the challenge of completing 50 fabric masks. She eventually donated the fabric masks to a local healthcare group with 20 employees. 

Around the same time, Mrs. Burk noticed that three makerspaces around the world were posting pictures of 3D printed face shields. Mrs. Burk reached out to three groups to see if they would be willing to share their designs: Inksmith, an educational technology company in Canada; TX/RX Labs, a nonprofit Makerspace in Houston; and Open Source Community Fight Against COVID-19 Malaysia, a Facebook group. Two of the three labs shared their source — Prusa, a 3D printing company in Czechoslovakia — and the other shared its newly added Instructable design. 

Around the same time, three Makerspace Club students, Isabella Wassom, Victoria Aragon-Marcial, and Bianca Dickenson, volunteered to sew fabric masks. Mrs. Burk set up curbside pickup for these students to check out the Makerspace Club sewing machines, and she set up mask drop-off times. 

On the day of curbside sewing machine pickup, while in the Makerspace lab, Mrs. Burk began thinking, “We have this fabrication equipment that could legitimately help our frontline workers, so we have to test these 3D printed face shields out.” With the Anna ISD Makerspace 3D printers, some donated materials, and some old overhead transparency sheets, she began testing. Once she got a couple of face shields made, she reached out to CTE Coordinator Theodore Mackey and Executive Director of Secondary Education Jennifer Kelley to present the idea. 

They wanted a way to give back to the local healthcare businesses and organizations that do so much for Anna ISD CTE. Together the three devised a plan to offer personal protective equipment (PPE) kits consisting of 3D printed shields and fabric masks. They created a form to assess the needs of local healthcare workers and first responders. Mr. Mackey, with the help of Anna Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Hall, was able to send the forms to local employers. 

As requests came in, Mrs. Burk set up sanitary 3D printed face shield assembly stations, and production began. At the same time, students and Mrs. Rodriguez were making fabric masks at their homes. Meanwhile, Health Science teacher Dr. Nicholas Mitchell began an inventory of the various CTE PPE that were in storage. 

“During the process, it really became a collaborative effort,” says Mrs. Burk, “that included help from STEM Coordinator Brayden Bunting, Ag Mech teacher Jeff Morris, AHS IT Specialist Stephanie Underwood, and Administrative Assistant Heather Mackey to help troubleshoot and assemble the face shields to help community healthcare workers and first responders.” 

Mrs. Burk shared updates via the Makerspace Facebook page, and community members and businesses started to reach out. “One of the most beautiful takeaways I will forever remember is that the community of Anna really showed that they can come together to partner with the school, staff, students, and city to help our heroes on the frontlines,” Mrs. Burk says. “I am so very proud of the AHS students and staff that stepped up to help in ways they could. I really hope that although students cannot be in the Makerspace, they see that they can still help from home and they see how beneficial the equipment in the Makerspace can be for industry and manufacturing.”  

Only two weeks after the original idea, Mrs. Burk and Mr. Mackey began delivering the PPE kits around the community — Pate Rehabilitation, Anna Fire Department, Melissa Physical Therapy. There are more deliveries to come, including to Anna Family Healthcare and other businesses with essential employees. 

Makerspace Club leader and senior Noah McElwey has joined in on the efforts by printing at his home on his own 3D printer. When deliveries are complete, the Makerspace Club and CTE hope that Anna students, staff, and local community members continue to help the essential workers who are keeping us safe, stocked with groceries, and healthy during the COVID-19 crisis.