With protective masks and face shields in short supply, Chris Kearley, an applied engineering instructor at Wilkes Community College’s Ashe Campus, is using modern technology to make 3D-printed face shields to help local healthcare providers stay safe.

Inspired by a story he read on the internet and his desire to help, Kearley received approval from Chris Robinson, vice president of workforce development and community education and director of the Ashe Campus, to contact the Florida business to see if they would be willing to share their design. Kearley stated, “They were happy to share their template with me. Once I had the template, I reached out to Ashe Memorial Hospital with my idea.” After building a prototype, Kearley met with representatives at Ashe Memorial Hospital (AMH) who have since asked for 30 masks that will be used in the emergency and operating rooms.

We appreciate the partnership. It’s an inspiration for us to see the community support during this difficult time,” stated Brian Yates, AMH chief executive officer.

Kearley currently has requests from multiple health care agencies in the region, including primary care practices, pharmacies, dentist offices, and optometrists. Watauga Medical Center has requested 100 face shields and Alleghany Memorial Hospital has requested as many as they can get.

Kearley stated, “It takes around 2.5 hours from setup to finish for each shield.  We have six Dremel 3D45 printers and one MakerBot 3D printer.” Earl Pennington with Ashe County High School and told him what we are doing with the face shields.  He brought us four more 3D printers.

Kearley did not embark on this journey alone, however; his fellow employees at the WCC Ashe Campus have stepped up to the plate to offer their assistance. “Betty Eller, custodian/evening coordinator, has donated her time and money to buy elastic bands and has ordered some transparent sheets to complete the shields, Kearley said. “I have had help from Kendra Perkins, director of curriculum and student services, and her son John Fields; Loretta Johnson, office manager; and Chris Bare, maintenance supervisor, in printing and assembling the shields.  Also, Mike Rash, Ashe Campus information technology technician, has helped with IT support.”

Dr. Jeff Cox, WCC president stated, “I’m really proud of Chris Kearly and the others at the Ashe Campus for seeing this need in our community and stepping forward to provide a solution.  This is at the heart of what Wilkes Community College does—see a need in the community and step forward to meet it!”

Chris Kearley, WCC applied career technologies instructor and Brian Yates, Ashe Memorial Hospital chief executive officer

Front-back: Chris Kearley, Betty Eller, and Chris Bare