Students at AOI create 3D masks for food service workers, volunteers

Published 9:00 am Monday, April 13, 2020

Even with schools closed and classes currently canceled in the Vicksburg Warren School District, one teacher and a few students came together recently to offer a helping hand to those providing meals to children throughout the county.

Mark Burgos, a robotics teacher at the Academy of Innovation, and a handful of AOI students saw a need to help protect those in the school district who were packaging and delivering meals each day to children in Warren County from exposure to the COVID-19 virus. 

Together, the group came up with the idea to use 3D printers to print reusable plastic masks.

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The masks are made of a common 3D filament called PLA — or polylactic acid — that is derived from renewable resources like corn starch, sugar cane and sugar beets. 

Creating each mask takes about five hours, which may seem like a long process, however, the masks are durable and can be washed and reused many times, unlike some masks that can only be used once. The multi-use masks are designed to use replaceable filters that are changed as needed so the mask itself lasts a long time. 

After printing, students sanded the inside of each mask to ensure a comfortable fit for recipients. The masks were then delivered to child nutrition employees, bus drivers and volunteers who are packing, loading and delivering meals each day. 

So far, the team has made about 40 masks using the 3D printing process.

In addition to creating the masks using the 3D printer, the team also developed elastic holder pieces that are used to hold the elastic bands behind the head instead of behind the ears, which after extended wear can cause some discomfort. 

“We had the resources in house and I am glad our teachers and students could work together to keep our food service and transportation team safe,” Academy of Innovation Principal Dr. Jason McKellar said.

The district’s food service program, which uses a network of buses, drivers and volunteers, delivered thousands of meals to children throughout Warren County each Monday through Friday.

About Tim Reeves

Tim Reeves, and his wife Stephanie, are the parents of three children, Sarah Cameron, Clayton and Fin, who all attend school in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The family are members of First Baptist Church Vicksburg. Tim is involved in a number of civic and volunteer organizations including the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the City of Vicksburg's Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.

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