Last week was spring break for all Hall County schools, but Flowery Branch engineering teacher Harmon Tison did not get much downtime.
Tison, along with Flowery Branch principal Jason Carter, have spent the last few weeks manning 19 Zortrax M200 3D printers at the school producing roughly 60 face shields a day to be provided to Northeast Georgia Health System. The operation runs every day, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., even through spring break, when Tison and Carter kept up the effort to pump out as many shields as possible.
“In a time of crisis, it’s kind of all hands on deck,” Tison said. “You do what you can if you’re able to.”
Face shields are thick sheets of plastic that fully cover the wearer’s face and add an additional level of protection when used by health care workers in combination with N95 masks. While the masks filter out particulate from the air, the shields work as a more direct repellent of liquid produced when sick patients cough.
“It’s basically like the windshield of your car,” Tison said.
The project has been collaborative across multiple schools and school systems.
It began with Dawson County High School engineering teacher Dusty Skorich. Skorich had already been 3D printing N95 face masks when a friend of his with Northeast Georgia Physicians Group let him know that hospitals were in just as great a need of face shields as they were masks.
Skorich said he provided a number of prototype face shield designs to NGPG, and eventually one was approved for use.
“I was just kind of throwing stuff against the wall and hoping it would stick,” he said. “And then one of the ones I made they came back and said ‘Yeah, that’s approved.’ Then I just needed to come up with a way to make it.”
That was where Tison came in.
Skorich had very few 3D printers he could use for production, so he got in touch with Tison, as well as Rhonda Samples, Hall County Schools director of career, technical and agricultural education.
Samples and Tison teamed with other schools in the area to help turn Flowery Branch into a hub of face shield production. Cherokee Bluff High School and Davis Middle School both loaned out 3D printers to help the cause.
Tison said the collaborative nature of the project is what has made it so successful.
“A single school may not have the resources to produce the volume like a big manufacturer would,” he said. “But when you get a lot of people together, then it becomes like a big manufacturer.”
For Tison, the project is all about giving back.
As an engineering teacher, he said he has always tried to impress upon his students the importance of using the vocational skills he teaches to help out in the community when possible. This is just the latest way he’s figured out how to do that.
“If everybody just does a little bit of a part in paying it forward, it has a big impact in the big picture,” Tison said.