HAMILTON, NJ -- With Hamilton Township Schools closing the next day, Steinert High School Librarian Renee Rogers grabbed the 3-D printer in the library and some supplies to bring home to prepare for what may lie ahead as students in her Innovation Lab Club would be home for weeks, virtual learning their only option.

The printer was previously used for the Enabling the Future project to help create prosthetic hands for children. But, with the need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health care workers and first responders on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus, the printer would fulfill a new mission: to create face shields. The shields comply with standards issued by that National Institutes of Health (NIH) critical to protecting those in contact with coronavirus patients. 

Now in the third month of the battle against COVID-19, Rogers and two Steinert High School students who also had 3-D printers at home, have together made and distributed approximately 300 face shields in just six weeks. The plastic face shields that are often worn as an extra layer of protection over masks have been distributed to numerous regional health care facilities including Penn Medical Center, Capital Health Trauma Center, and Atrium Acute Care.  Face shields also will be delivered to Hamilton Fire Company Number 6 this week.  

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Rogers told TAPinto Hamilton/Robbinsville that they started out with school supplies for the Lab club and were supported by the Steinert Robotics Team that donated plastic filaments to get initiate the effort. Materials for the project are funded in part by the SOMA NJ Printer Alliance . The statewide organization has worked with students across the state to create an estimated 13,000 face shields for health care workers and first responders in New Jersey and New York City. 

Rogers said that she communicates with the mask-making students through Google classroom and other online platforms to protect each other from any virus exposure. She picks up the completed masks from their porches and personally delivers them to health care facilities in the area.  

"The students' energy and enthusiasm keeps me going and give me an opportunity to give back," said Rogers.

Joe DiGeronimo, one of the Steinert High School students who is printing the 3-D face shields, said that he always thought they were "the coolest thing" and bought one when the pandemic broke out, and he heard shields could be printed. 

Using an online model from the NIH website, DiGeronimo prints the shield parts, assembles them, and prepares them to be picked up his teacher.  All the while he's doing his virtual learning for his senior year at Steinert where he is part of a dual enrollment program at Mercer County Community College.

DiGeronimo said his printed is going "pretty much 24-7" including through the night; and he "gets back at it" when he wakes up in the morning. 

"This is a great project for helping people with a fun project to help support doctors nurses and others in between who help people out; and the cycle keeps going." said DiGeronimo.

Rogers said that "the best thing that can happen is that these masks are eventually no longer needed." But, as long as the coronavirus pandemic continues these three Hamilton Township community heroes will keep printing them. 

Supplies to make the mask as mostly paid for by Rogers, the DiGeronimo Family, and the family of student mask-maker Wesley Gnandt.

To help support the Steinert Innovavtion Club's efforts, donate to Steinert High Robotics Parents Association (P.O. Box 3352, Mercerville, NJ, 08619) or via their Facebook page or the SOMA NJ Printer Alliance Go Fund Me page.  Anyone who may want to help print face shields or helping with deliveries can contact Librarian Renee Rogers at rrogers@hamilton.k12.nj.us.   

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