Matthew Mallory, member of the Live Oak Nuts and Bolts Robotics Team, is using his own 3-D printer to help make base frames for PPE face shields that they are making for local health care workers.

By Juan Reyes

The Live Oak High School Nuts and Bolts robotics team had a wrench thrown into its season as school closures took place all around Santa Clara County.

But that’s not stopping Grace Taira, a junior and team member for the past two years, from leading a project to provide some necessary resources for health care workers battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Grace and a group of teammates are helping health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight by creating face shield parts with 3D printers.

Grace said they have the resources to help and provide equipment that is desperately needed in hospitals. 

“It’s the right thing to do to contribute and try and mitigate the damages that this is causing,” she said. 

The team is making the base parts that hold the clear plastic visor, which are in high demand. 

They are collaborating with a group in Mountain View who are providing the clear part of the mask. 

The team has made close to 70 masks with Grace producing 30 masks in her own home. As of now there is no set goal.

“It really is just, keep going until we stop,” she said. 

Grace noted there has been a lot of discussion about personal protective equipment since the coronavirus pandemic reached the U.S. earlier this year.

When the call went out to the community for help to make face shields with 3D printers, several of the FIRST teams collaborated to create the items and deliver them to Kaiser Permanente. 

“We heard that discussion and figured since we had 3D printers we could definitely join in and help,” she said. 

The Nuts and Bolts robotic team is a part of the FIRST Robotics network. This year they doubled the team in size to 20 students.

Last year was the team’s first time competing for Nuts and Bolts. 

Kristopher Boursier, Live Oak teacher and mentor for Nuts and Bolts, said the students worked all year to design and build a robot so they could compete in the FIRST regional competitions in March. 

However, three days before they were scheduled to leave, all field trips were suspended. Boursier said by the end of that week, the school was closed for shelter-in-place.

“But instead of walking away and doing nothing, they have kept the team going with virtual meetings, including collaborating on using our 3D printers for the good of all,” Boursier said.

Grace and teammate Ricky Rodriguez each took home a 3D printer. They looked up CAD designs provided by Prusa Research, which are approved by the World Health Organization.

Boursier said it was like a breath of fresh air to talk with the students to see what they’ve been doing.

“[Grace] is an amazing kid,” Boursier said. “She doesn’t talk about it, she does it.” 

Matthew Mallory, another Nuts and Bolts team member, unleashed his 3D printer on the project and enlisted his fellow Boy Scout members. They are producing face shields for the Dune Hill Fire Station. 

Grace said the biggest challenge has been trying to coordinate without having the outlet of school to communicate and get things sorted out. She said it’s quite a bit of work but it’s not too bad. 

“It’s just become kind of a routine I suppose and if it can help contribute to working against coronavirus then that’s something that we’re willing to do,” Grace said. 

They set up a camera and a monitor to check the printer every so often to make sure things are operating smoothly. 

It takes about three to four hours to make a full print and they’re using a 3D print filler called Polylactic Acid, commonly known as PLA.

PLA is generally around $25 per roll and one roll is capable of making several face shields.

It’s one of the most popular materials used in desktop 3D printing because it can be printed at a low temperature and does not require a heated bed. 

Grace said it’s also easier to sanitize and it is recommended by hospitals.

Boursier said it’s been inspirational to see a group of kids who have been forging ahead on a big project.

“It’s really a great thing that they’re doing and it gives you hope for the future,” Boursier said.

Grace Taira, member of the Live Oak High School Nuts and Bolts Robotics Team, checks on a 3-D printer as she makes the base frames for PPE face shields they are making for local health care workers.
Members of the Nuts and Bolts Robotics Team of Live Oak High School working on their robot for competition. Pictured left to right: Annette Lane (team mentor), Mario Frausto, Keeshaun Tyler, Jessi Stegall, Matthew Mallory, JJ Verhoeven.
Ricky Rodriguez, member of the Live Oak Nuts and Bolts Robotics Team, took home a 3-D printer to help make base frames for PPE face shields that they are making for local health care workers.
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