Face Masks Made In IDL Lab
Mimi Stanton

When Jon Hamelinck began teaching Innovation and Design Lab (IDL) classes two years ago, he couldn’t have foreseen the role the equipment for that class would play in the COVID-19 pandemic. But in early April, a confluence of events gave him the opportunity to use the IDL laser cutter to create desperately needed face shields for local hospitals.

It all began when English teacher Thelene Tornow forwarded him a story link on how the University of Illinois had created a face shield design tested and approved for hospital workers. The university then shared the file with the general public.

“It just so happened that 20 minutes after receiving that link Matt Davidson asked if we had any PPE (personal protective equipment) in our labs that we could donate,” Hamelinck said. Representatives from local hospitals had been trying to track down more of the scarce equipment. 

Although Timothy had no PPE to share, he forwarded the story link detailing how to make face shields using laser cutters like the one in Timothy’s IDL classroom. “Matt asked me if that was something we could do so I went in that afternoon and tried it,” Hamelinck said. “It turned out pretty cool.”

Nearly 300 face shields have been created and sent to area hospitals.

And like a pied piper of sorts, Hamelinck gathered a crew of Timothy faculty eager to help. Doug Pelt, also an IDL teacher, was a natural choice. When Steve Adamski, science department head, heard about the effort, he immediately volunteered. Next was math teacher Jim Snoeyink, who saw Jon walk past his classroom. “When I found out what he was doing, I said if you need someone to help out, let me know.” Tim Wierenga, math teacher, also joined in.

“The next thing you know, we were cranking out as many face shields as we could,” said Hamelinck, who manned the laser cutter and trained the others in the necessary manufacturing steps.

Most of the work was done over the course of three long days, with various members of the team working in the IDL classroom. They all followed social distancing guidelines, wearing masks and working on different tables more than six feet apart. To thank the team for their efforts, Davidson brought in dinner for the group one night. To date, nearly 300 face shields have been created and sent to area hospitals.

And far from begrudging the long days, Adamski said, “It was wonderful just to talk and be with my colleagues. I think we all felt that way. It has been so frustrating to fight this invisible enemy, which we can’t see or do much about. It felt wonderful to contribute even a little.”

Hamelinck agreed. “Doing your part by sitting on the couch doesn’t fit my personality very well. It felt so good to put the creativity and the tools we have to good use.” 

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