Berkeley Students Encourage Teacher to 3D Print Medical Facemasks

Students in the Honors Engineering Design class at Berkeley recently reached out to their teacher with an idea to use the school’s 3D printers to produce medical-grade facemasks for healthcare workers. Almost simultaneously, another student in Berkeley’s Middle Division 3D Printing Club reached out to his club sponsor with a similar request and added that he wanted to print protective ear guards to make the masks more comfortable.

One of the students was inspired by his parents, both of whom are physicians, who shared how needed the masks are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Coincidentally, Berkeley alumnus and parent Bennett Barrow ‘98, who is on the board of the nonprofit High Risk Hope, approached the Berkeley administration asking if the school’s 3D printing lab could be of help printing masks for the doctors with whom his organization works.

The chair of the school’s science department, Dr. Nicole Ackerson, was quick to respond to such honorable requests. Some research by Dr. Ackerson revealed that Berkeley’s 3D printers could get the job done and she knew what she had to do.

Today, the Ackerson home has four 3D printers working around the clock to produce the masks and ear guards. With some innovation, she was able to streamline the total time per mask from nine hours to three hours. She even challenged the 3D Printing Club members to come up with inspiring messages to be inscribed on the ear guards.

Two of the printers being used in this effort were recently purchased with a generous Berkeley Fund gift from a family who restricted their gift to the science department. The printers were ordered in early February and were received during spring break. They immediately went to use for the greater good during this pandemic and the students have been instrumental in guiding the design of the masks remotely.

Dr. Ackerson is now working with High Risk Hope to customize the masks for fit and comfort so doctors can wear them for long periods of time. She has printed more than 40 masks and ear guards, and shared 20 prototypes with High Risk Hope to share where the need is greatest.
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Founded in 1960, Berkeley is an independent, Episcopal, college-preparatory day school located in Tampa, FL, for boys and girls in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12. Approximately 1,380 students gather here from the greater Tampa Bay area to form ONE Berkeley.