Return to Headlines

Students Help Keep Essential Employees Safe

Challenge ignites creativity and innovation. Adversity ignites kindness and caring. Across the country and locally, we are seeing businesses changing their product line in order to produce items greatly needed during this time. Although these various businesses represent a wide spectrum of products, the one thing they all have in common is people – people utilizing their creative and innovative minds to seek solutions in a time of crisis. 


Mr. Todd DeSoto, a technology teacher at Salem Washington Academy, and his students are no exception. Actually, they are exceptional. Although the school’s doors are currently closed as students continue to learn off campus, Mr. DeSoto and his students have been producing face shields with items readily available: transparency film, three-hole punch, scissors, and a 3-D printer. His students have evolved into a virtual research and development department, as they provide suggestions for improvement while they learn off-campus via video chats. 


The project began by using the guidelines from a blueprint Mr. DeSoto found on and shared with his students. The headband is created by the
3-D printer, and each headband takes about 3.5 hours to print. One of the first shields Mr. DeSoto initially made used plastic sheet protectors for the shield. However, it was quickly discovered that the visibility wasn’t very clear, which could lead to safety hazards. Along with the nearly extinct overhead projector, remains an abundant supply of overhead transparencies, which provides the solution for clearer and stronger shields. 


Members of the Salem Volunteer Fire Department and Salem Rescue Squad have been given the masks to try out in seeking their feedback. The general consensus has been that they are quite comfortable. Mr. DeSoto’s students are also exercising their writing skills in sending notes of appreciation thanking them for helping improve the evolving product. Face shields will be donated to both emergency service organizations as well as Rupert Fire and Shushan Fire. 


Since the time this project began, another challenge in regard to personal protective equipment (PPE) emerged, as the skin behind their ears of essential employees having to wear masks began to break down. This damage to the skin is caused by the heat and friction created in wearing a mask for a long period of time. Besides being uncomfortable, this condition can also lead to infection. 


Being solution seekers, the students came up with a custom design using the computer program Sketch to create a file to print ear savers. What’s an ear saver? It's a plastic band that takes the pressure off the backs of ears while wearing a face mask for hours. The students even further customized their product by having “Salem Hero” printed within the band. 


The class decided to donate the ear savers to local store employees who are required to wear a face mask during work hours. Each donated package of ear savers will have “Courtesy of Salem Tech Students” printed on the front. 


Videos of Mr. Todd DeSoto explaining the process to make the face shields and the ear savers can be found below.