WSCO Ass.t Professor lends hand in time of crisis

MARIETTA, OHIO—It was a social media post by the Building Bridges to Careers (BB2C) Makerspace that first caught the eye of John Burgardt, assistant professor of engineering at Washington State College of Ohio (WSCO). He saw images of 3D printers and lasers hard at work creating face shields, all in the name of protecting local healthcare workers from COVID-19. Along with the pictures was a plea for others to get involved. Burgardt responded to the call without hesitation. Though he was now teaching all of his courses remotely, he knew the college had several printers that could be put to good use in partnership with BB2C.

The initial request was for the headbands that hold a plastic face shield. Burgardt made a trip to campus, picked up a 3D printer and used it to set up a makeshift lab in his attic. “I printed a few and tweaked the design a little bit,” he explained. Printing at a rate of about one band an hour, he quickly realized if he was going to make progress, he would need more printers. After a return visit to campus, his attic was replete with three printers equipped to run 24 hours a day.

The constant hum emanated from Burgardt’s attic for many days and resulted in the creation of an estimated 250 headbands. Upon delivery of the donation, Burgardt, along with a tiny brigade of other volunteer printers, learned that Makerspace designers had simplified the process to speed-up production and would need other 3D printed items. The new request was for the creation of a simple clip that would be used to connect the sides of the new shields. In addition to producing these clips, Burgardt said he is also printing ear-savers, which are thin plastic bridges used to pull the loops of surgical masks off the back of the ears.

“We appreciate that John took the initiative to help our community,” praised WSCO President Dr. Vicky Wood. “A college is a hollow shell without people who care. We are fortunate that a member of our team was willing to put our equipment and supplies to good use to benefit our local healthcare professionals.”

WSCO has collaborated with Building Bridges to Careers on several other occasions, including Engineering Day, Family Career Awareness Day, Career Connect Job Fair, as well as Burgardt’s involvement with the installation of some equipment for the Makerspace. “Washington State College of Ohio has always been ready to jump in and provide support to BB2C whenever it is needed,” said BB2C Program Facilitator Tonya Davis. “We are so grateful for that support.”