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Broward College Students Help Health Care Workers Battle COVID-19 — Using 3-D Printers

Courtesy of Annie Myers
Broward College student volunteers are 3-D printing plastic headbands like these to make face shields for health care workers battling COVID-19.

Bobby Henderson holds up a tiny blue plastic octopus with a monocle and a hat, its legs clicking against each other as they dangle in the air.

The octopus figurine — and another one, of the baby Yoda character made famous by last year’s “Star Wars” spinoff show “The Mandalorian” — are the kinds of trinkets Henderson usually makes using Broward College’s 3-D printers.

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But recently, the third-year student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in information technology has been 3-D printing face shields instead. He and other students at the college have volunteered to help manufacture the personal protective equipment for health care workers treating patients with COVID-19.

“It’s a good opportunity to help out,” said Henderson, 26.

It takes about 15 to 18 hours to print a group of four or six plastic pieces that are used to fasten the face shield around a person’s head. Once printed, the volunteers attach the plastic headbands to a transparent sheet, like a book report cover, using a three-hole punch. Then they add Velcro to make the shield adjustable to different head sizes.

Henderson is one of the students who took a 3-D printer home to monitor its progress during the long process, so he didn’t have to stay on campus.

In total, the college has made about 250 face shields so far, donating some of them to Memorial Healthcare in Pembroke Pines, said Annie Myers, associate dean of information technology. Their goal is 1,000.

“We’ll keep printing until we run out of the supplies,” she said.

Jessica Bakeman is senior editor for news at WLRN, South Florida's NPR member station. Previously, Bakeman served as WLRN's education reporter for four years. Bakeman was awarded the 2020 Journalist of the Year award from the Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.