IUP Leverages Community Partnerships to Print Facemasks

Posted on 4/22/2020 10:09:39 AM

Video: Time lapse of 3-D printing of a face shield at IUP COEC faculty member Kacey Cowburn’s house.

It’s been six weeks since Indiana University of Pennsylvania started operating in the COVID 19 virtual atmosphere. Yet with so much change happening, acts of humanity are alive and well.

One such act started with a phone conversation and has grown into a massive community effort with IUP lending its expertise and financial resources to the Indiana County COVID Avengers, a group of area students who are using 3-D printers to make face shields for health care workers.

Ute Lowery, Tracy Eisenhower, Mark Berezansky of IUP’s Research Institute deliver supplies to Brad Adams’ house

Ute Lowery, Tracy Eisenhower, Mark Berezansky of IUP’s Research Institute deliver supplies to Brad Adams’ house.

“I had students asking me, how can I help,” said IUP alumnus Brad Adams ’06, a teacher in the Homer-Center School District.

Mix a little superhero with some adults, combine that with students stuck at home and add a pandemic…out comes the COVID Avengers.

“We are always seeking collaborations and found Brad to be an enthusiastic partner,” said Hilliary Creely, associate dean of IUP’s Graduate School. “Pre-COVID, we were in conversation with Brad about how we might partner on a number of projects and grants. Then COVID happened and presented us with an immediate opportunity to work together and serve our community.”

Adams’ school students started fabricating face masks. Soon after, students from several other local schools joined in, including Marion Center, Penns Manor, Indiana, Blairsville-Saltsburg, and Seeds of Faith.

Printers, filament and other supplies stacked up at Brad Adams’ house

Printers, filament and other supplies stacked up at Brad Adams’ house

The humanity isn’t limited to Indiana County. Since Adams’ Facebook group, called COVID Avengers-3D Print Face Shields to Donate to Hospitals, was created on April 1, similar Avenger groups have formed across the state and country. There is one each in Cumberland and York counties and one in the Indianapolis area.

“This project is not about me,” Adams said. “It’s about having a terrific, forward-thinking administrator as principal. It’s about having talented and caring students in the right place with the right skills and the right hearts. It’s about having friends at Indiana County Technology Center and at Homer-Center incorporating their friends and neighbors. It’s about Dr. Creely including me on meetings she didn’t have to, and parents volunteering their time and space on their dining room tables for a printer. Most of all it’s about the health care workers everywhere in every facility that work with patients every day.”

The reach keeps growing. Pittsburgh-based IUP graduates Rob Ruscher ’09 and David Altrogge ’06 lent their support through marketing and fundraising by way of a GoFundMe page. Adams’ wife, Lisa ’99, serves as de facto organizer, keeping spreadsheets and organizing the Indiana Avengers. The group has also established an Amazon wish list.

IUP Student Assistance FundThe talent involved and the dedication of the students and their parents is at the heart of why Creely jumped in to help.

“The Research Institute purchased two 3D printers, nozzles, and boxes and boxes of filament for the group and delivered them to Brad’s house,” Creely said. “Three IUP students also joined the COVID Avengers and are using 3D printers borrowed from IUP and owned by the College of Fine Arts.”

Distribution of the completed masks is occurring daily. Requests have come from as far away as Baltimore, Maryland. Locally, western Pennsylvania health care facilities and first responders get first dibs on masks printed by students. Indiana Regional Medical Center, Homer City Fire Department, Punxsutawney Area Hospital, and Citizens Ambulance Service are just a few of the facilities that have already received shields.