Monday, April 20, 2020

Students with special needs make face shields with 3D printers: GOOD news

Last month, a guy in our area started a 3D Printers Alliance on Facebook for people interested in making 3D masks and shields for workers in need of personal protective equipment. I don't know much about 3D printing and posts like "Does anyone use 3.0mm pla?" are lost on me. But I need hope and good news, and I have been awed by what the group has accomplished: They have made and donated more than 5000 masks to hospitals, ambulance corps, nursing homes, local doctors and nurses, dental practices and even a soup kitchen.

Last night, I read an article on that gave my spirits one of the biggest lifts in recent weeks: special needs students in a school district in Bergen, NJ,  have been using 3D printers to make shields for health care workers, as a supplement to their virtual learning. The STEM coordinator for the district delivered the printers to some dozen families and provided instruction on how to use them; more printers have since been donated.

This is yet more proof of the many abilities that people with disabilities have. They are as capable as any of us of pitching in during the pandemic. Amelia McGowan, a 13-year-old with autism who lives in Rutherford, NJ (that's her at work in the photo above) oversees the 3D printer in her home—it runs a good nine hours a day. Her mom, Stephanie McGowan, and I have a mutual friend, and I connected with them on Facebook.

"When this started, Amelia was so scared," says Stephanie, an advocate and the dean of the School of Education at Felician University. "Her anxiety was through the roof and she couldn't sleep at night. Making these shields helps her to focus on doing something to help others. She says that every time she gets one done, she feels like the world is getting a little better.To see her so fiercely independent and committed to this is simply amazing. My husband and I are so proud! She just got an email from her superintendent and principal congratulating her."

Amelia is taking a lot of pride in making the face shields, too. "I like making them because we are helping people to stay safe," says Amelia. "Maybe our family or friends will need them and it will make them feel good because I made it with love."


  1. Oh Ellen! This is such a wonderful story! It covers everything we talk about in one of my support groups! I'm going to link the story to them now! Thank you for the sunshine!

    1. SO glad to share what Amelia and her fellow students are doing!

  2. Hi there!!! I’m the founder of the NJ 3D printer group! We’d love to include you all or support Amelia however we can with filament, etc! Let us know if you need help!

    1. OH HI JAKE! Could you be any more awesome? I hope Stephanie and Amelia connect with you in the group.


Thanks for sharing!

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