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Brick High School Teacher, Students Use Unique Skills to Make PPE for Healthcare Workers

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PPE designed by students at the STEM Academy in the Brick school district. (Photo: STEM Academy Students)
PPE designed by students at the STEM Academy in the Brick school district. (Photo: STEM Academy Students)

Students from Brick Township’s two high schools have been making a major contribution in the mission to protect healthcare workers from the spread of coronavirus, putting the skills they learned in a unique set of classes to use during the crisis.

Several years ago, the Brick school district started its STEM academy. (STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math.)

When schools closed in March, STEM Academy Coordinator, Dan Nagle, realized the potential STEM Lab equipment could have in the fight against Covid-19 and developed a plan with students to supply 3D-printed face shields also known as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to essential health care workers.

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“We challenged Mr. Nagle to figure out how to get the students involved in the PPE production while practicing social distancing,” said Superintendent Tom Farrell. “This is what the STEM Academy is all about — providing educational support and guidance so students can hone their unique skills and collaborate to solve real-world problems together.”

Farrell said he was “thrilled” with how well Nagle and his students responded in a crisis.

Nagle has a personal connection to the ongoing crisis. His wife is a surgical resident for a local hospital system, and she began helping to print and evaluate various face shield prototypes. Several samples were provided to local hospitals for testing. After prototype testing, the “Budmen Model” was chosen by the surgical chair and surgical residency program director of Hackensack Meridian Health as it is the most comfortable and secure face shield design.

PPE designed by students at the STEM Academy in the Brick school district. (Photo: STEM Academy Students)
PPE designed by students at the STEM Academy in the Brick school district. (Photo: STEM Academy Students)

While staff were creating PPE shields, students were busy creating a website to document the design process and to track fundraising efforts in order to create a minimum of 20 face shields per week until shields are no longer needed. The website, designed and maintained by students, provides information on how local community members can get involved with the coronavirus relief effort.

“The mission of the STEM Academy program is to provide students with meaningful learning opportunities through real world-problem solving,” said Nagle. “With the use of current technology, our students are able to continue that mission from home and literally provide a solution to help solve a real-world, global issue.”

The website also shares stories on local individuals such as the Lemiska family who are 3D printing PPE at home. Carlie Lemiska, a STEM Academy freshman at Brick Memorial High School, and her father, have been using their own 3D printer to create “ear guards” that make wearing PPE for long periods of time more comfortable.

“I’m glad to be a part of such an inspiring project,” said Madyson Brown, a STEM Academy student who is a member of the class of 2021. “I hope that our equipment not only keeps essential workers safe, but that it also put their families’ worries at ease, even if only a little bit.”

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Editor’s Note: The students’ website referenced in the story can be found that this address: https://howsi.netlify.app/