Lakecity Secondary Columneetza Campus teacher Nick MacDonald recently reproduced a new bracket for one of Cariboo Memorial Hospital’s safety suits using the school’s 3D printer. (Ryan Hanley photo)

COVID-19: Drafting, robotics teacher fixes safety suit mask for hospital

Nick MacDonald said he reproduced a bracket that holds the face shield to the head gear

A drafting and robotics teacher in Williams Lake used the school’s 3D modelling software and printer to help out during COVID-19 by producing a replacement bracket for a hospital mask.

“This was a full suit with a face shield and one of the brackets broke that held the face shield to the head gear for a PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator),” said Nick MacDonald, who teaches at Lake City Secondary School Columneetza Campus. “I took on the challenge and sent the helmet back.”

Read more: Flood repairs result in new COVID-19 respiratory unit at Cariboo Memorial Hospital

To replace the bracket, MacDonald made the pattern by using the existing piece that was unbroken on the other side.

Using software at the school, he did some precision measuring and modelling, and printed off a few prototypes to make sure everything fit.

“I had to change a few things and then the final product was ready to go,” he added.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been working as tech support in the School District 27 to help with distant learning.

The mask bracket fix was his first pandemic-related request from the hospital and something that Dr. Ivan Scrooby thinks could develop further.

He said that particular suit is one of three the hospital has owned since the SARS era.

“There is a skeleton that fits inside a hoodie,” Scrooby said. “As 3M is the company that produces them and they are obviously in short supply like everything at the moment I knew it would be several weeks before we could get some. I have quite a few hoodies but only a few skeletons.”

Scrooby credited the hospital’s OR manager Karen Hill for arranging the fix through one of the nurses whose husband works at Columneetza.

“Now that we’ve got that one fixed we have three of those type.We have a few old ones that are up and running and we have a few new ones,” he said.

So far the suits are being used ‘very little,’ in the negative pressure unit at the hospital which was created after the hospital had to renovate when pipe bursts during a cold snap.

Wearing an N95 mask for a long period of time can be stifling and for some people claustrophobic, some members have skin break down from the nose bridge area where it sits and goggles still fog up despite a good seal, he added.

“Many of us develop headaches after wearing them for long periods of time.”

A PAPR hoodie is a comfortable alternative for the staff to wear.

Read more: Hometown: the doctor is in the house

Normally MacDonald’s Grade 8 students design and make a key fob to try learn 3D modelling for themselves. Grade 9s learn to replicate existing parts that may have been broken such as in a small engine parts. They have to reproduce in plastic parts that were originally metal.

“They actually go through the same process I did in recreating the piece for the hospital except they are using automotive gears and sprockets.”

MacDonald taught Dr. Scrooby’s son in Grade 8 Expo where students are introduced to 3D modelling.

“He’s gotten so into it that he’s currently bought his own 3D printer. We’ve been e-mailing back and forth to make sure he’s got all the right product so it’s safe to use at home and it’s going to be a decent good product to use as well so he doesn’t have any issues or troubles with it working.”

Material they use at the school is Polylactic Acid (PLA) — a corn-based plastic that is safe and non-toxic for plastic use or the school would have to have a high ventilation system to use any of the industrial plastics.

All of his courses have ended so he isn’t teaching virtually at this point, which is why he is doing tech support and other tasks, such as the hospital job.

“I just helped the yearbook teacher finish up a whole bunch of pages so the students still have their yearbook for the year. That was a monumental piece we had to take on in the last two weeks to get that all finished up for both campuses.”

MacDonald has been working in SD27 for 13 years.

Not having the students in the school right now is ‘eerie”, he said.

“It’s lonely and I find I’m tired at the end of the day because the students’ energy usually feeds me and at the end of the day I’m still amped,” he said. “They are missed by all of us.”

Read more: COVID-19: Williams Lake dentists install negative pressure room to care for emergency cases

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