One of the side effects of constantly wearing a face mask is raw ears. But thanks to some technically minded citizens, those who must wear masks all day at work are finding some relief.
Caden Leadston is a 16-year-old student at Huntsville High School (HHS) who also happens to be talented when it comes to robotics.
“I have been on a robotics team since I was in grade two,” Leadston said.
A student of Riverside Public School at the time, Leadston was fast-tracked into the robotics program with the help of principal David Crawford. “Historically, students could join the robotics team in Grade 4,” Leadston said. That program was led by teachers Nicole Boulard and Melanie Paquet.
Leadston is now the lead of 3D printing on the Hoya Robotics team at HHS, said teacher and mentor, Ian McTavish. “He has had years of experience with 3D printing. If you need something printed with 3D, he’s the one to get it done.”
What needs to be done now is the printing of a plastic strap that can be worn across the back of a person’s head to hold a face mask in place and alleviate the stress on their ears.
It was McTavish who approached Leadston with the request to print the mask straps.
“I have my own 3D printer and I am glad I had all the material stockpiled,” Leadston said, adding the material used for the printing, which is a plastic filament, has basically tripled in price in recent months. Huntsville Public Library also lent the robotics team their 3D printer for use as needed, and excess funding from an earlier face shield project may be used to support this cause as well.
Leadston types the code into his computer and sends the design to the printer, but he is quick to note that he did not design the file.
The 3D printer heats the material to 200-plus degrees, which melts the plastic and the nozzles spew it out layer by layer into the desired design. “It is a lot like a hot glue gun, but hotter and more precise,” he said.
He is able to print three straps in 45 minutes. “These are some of the quickest things to print,” he said. “It takes about four layers of plastic.”
Leadston was asked to make 10 straps to be used as a prototype to see if they worked.
The reaction was so positive that he has been asked to print 500 for the hospital.
Making things has always been a passion of Leadston’s. “I am usually the one who specializes in the electrical and pneumatics end of projects.” He attended the University of Waterloo’s Engineering and Science Quest Camp for five years starting in 2013 and it was there that he was introduced to 3D printing. “They had a rickety 3D printer, but it worked and we got to design something and print it out.”
He generally uses his printing skills to print out parts needed for the Hoya Robotics team project and said he was very happy to help with the earsavers project. “Knowing it is going for a good reason, that is the satisfying part of it,” he said.
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