An Okotoks teen and his family are working to provide much needed protective equipment to Alberta's frontline medical staff.

13 year old Owen Plumb began 3D printing face shields about a week ago, after 3D printer company Prusa Printers released a design for the masks, encouraging members of the public to produce their own to distribute to healthcare workers across the world.

Owen says he's been interested in the technology for some time.

"I've been 3D printing for a couple years, I've been following the technology for about four years now. It's been a roller coaster of ups and downs, 3D printer working and 3D printer not working. It's a really useful technology and it's fun to use."

The masks themselves are comprised of a 3D printed frame and headband, with a visor cut from a sheet of clear plastic. They are designed to protect from droplets spread by coughing or sneezing, and fit most head sizes.

Owen has fully assembled around 75 masks, and is hoping to hit the 100 mark in the next week.

His father Kevin started the "Face Shields for Foothills, AB" Facebook group soon after, basing the group on a similar one in Calgary.

The intention of the group is to pool resources and knowledge in order to more efficiently produce the face shields and other useful medical equipment.

Owen says he continues to draw inspiration from vulnerable family members.

"My grandmother is a healthcare worker. She works with elderly people, and has started working with people that have caught the coronavirus, so we sent her a care package of one face shield and a whole bunch of extra visors. Also my mom has a chronic lung disease, she can't go outside anymore."

Owen's parents take an active administrative role in the group, as well as in seeking a means to distribute the face shields.

Kevin says the group has already accumulated a number of dedicated individuals.

"This group is working 24 hours a day it seems in order to try to get this to work out. There are a lot of people wanting to help out in any way they can, we see what's happening around the world, we know there's a shortage of these personal protective equipment pieces, face shields, face masks, gowns, caps. I think there's lots of people that felt there's something they could do to help out, so they're doing what they can."

Several organizations have helped out with the cause, including the Rotary Club of Okotoks who have provided monetary donations to cover materials, and have promoted the group on social media.

Owen says you don't necessarily need to own a 3D printer to help out.

"Anyone that has basic sewing skills can help by sewing face masks. If you own a laser with a laser cutter, albeit a fairly big one, but there's lot of ways to get involved. Surgical masks and caps are one of the main things people can help with."

The masks have not yet been distributed, as approval from Health Canada is currently pending, though a response is expected in the near future.

Kevin and Owen extended thanks to Alberta's frontline healthcare workers and their tireless efforts to preserve public wellbeing, and are hoping to return the favour with their venture.

To view the Facebook group, click here.


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