A second batch of face mask bands created by local students is now making life more comfortable for health care workers who depend on PPE for health and safety.
Hood River Valley High School robotics students have been 3D-printing plastic bands in the school’s blue and gold colors, a new and simple piece of equipment designed to make mask wearing more comfortable for employees. The adjustable bands go around the back of the head and provide a mount for the elastic, relieving pressure on the wearer’s ears. 
Earlier in the 2019-20 school year, a grant from the Hood River Education Foundation provided 3D printers for the elementary schools, but before they could be used, the schools closed down for the year due to COVID-19.
Engineering department advisor Jeff Blackman and his students found a solution: Instead of letting the printers just sit there, the machines were distributed to select, trained students’ houses. There, the students started making PPE for medical and fire department responders. They’ve also made enough to distribute to local businesses to give to employees.
The project goes beyond the head bands. Students also made filter housings for bag valve masks, reusable N95 mask adapters, and aerosol boxes: Clear protective guards that medical staff place over the torso and head of a patient during intubation and other procedures.
Now that the PPE supply chain seems to be caught up, the students focused on the needs of the community to get back to work. 
Blackman said the School District’s Becky Franks, who is United Robotics program advisor, brought to the engineering department’s attention that employees had discomfort with the elastic around their ears. After researching the problem, the students finalized a design and started printing head bands to connect the elastic to, thus relieving the stress on the ears. The students involved in the project were Hayden Jacobson, Grace Guertin, Jason Fellows, Nolan Ryan, Sadie Smith, Bryn Heinemann, Charles Wilson, Patrick McGhee, and Lucas Elliott.
In early June, Blackman took on the role of equipment delivery man, taking the gear to a list of businesses and medical offices, including Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, driving the HRVHS Fab Bus, the school’s rolling technology lab. The students will continue to make masks over the summer, said Blackman.
For the man who has been the driving force behind the HRVHS engineering program and its associated robotics and STEM-related programs, the project is Blackman’s last official one; he retires this month as a teacher. He is exploring other projects, which are very likely to find him if he does not find them first.

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