By J.O. Parker
Michael DeJong of Montezuma is engaging in a different type of learning while school is closed due to COVID-19.
Michael, 17, a junior at Montezuma, has set up a mini factory in the basement of his family’s Lake Ponderosa home and is creating face shields for local and area emergency personal and those in the medical field.
He came up with the idea after seeing a similar project online and deciding that he could duplicate the process using his 3D printer. Michael recruited his sister, Elizabeth, 13, a seventh grader at Montezuma, and her Cricut (a home controlled cutting machine for crafts) to make the project possible.
“I thought we could definitely make this project work and help people around the state due to the shortage of PPE(Personal Protective Equipment),” he said.
At first, Michael was going to 3D print the parts and ship them to someone who could make the transparent shields.
“However, after two days of doing research and testing, I figured out I could cut the transparent sheets with my sister’s Cricut,” noted Michael. “It took me approximately 30 hours in trials to figure out exactly how I could get this project to work.”
Michael said the first print went very well, but he had to get creative with the rest of his materials.
“Since I didn’t have any clear plastic, I reached out to my classmates and my Spanish teacher, Mrs. Stockman, who had some overhead transparency film I could use,” he said. “It got even more crazy when I didn’t have any elastic so I took it out of an old pair of blue jeans I wore as a kid and used the elastic out of them!”
So far, Michael and Elizabeth have made 18 face shields. Last Saturday, he donated his first 12 shields to Kerri Gregory, a Montezuma graduate, who works as an x-ray technician at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
“This became possible after Kerri’s mom, Traci, reached out to my dad, Matt, after seeing his Facebook post of Elizabeth and I’s work,” said Michael. “When I got in contact with Traci, I said I would be more than willing to donate 12 masks and make deliver the following day. As of Sunday, 12 x-ray technicians at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics are using my face shields.”
Michael is now reaching out to local first responders, including the Montezuma Fire Department and any other local personnel in Montezuma that might need some face shields.
“After that, I plan on getting in touch with the Grinnell hospital to see how I can help meet their needs,” said Michael.
Michael said the process of making a face shield takes about 3.5 hours. He uses the 3D printer to make the face shield frame and bottom reinforcement. After that, the brother, sister duo Cricut the PET film and cut the buttonhole elastic to each face shield to the correct size.
“Following those things, I assemble them and begin on a new one,” he said.
Michael said the specific model of face shield he is printing was designed for European standards.
“I had to redraw and convert it to North American standards,” he said. “Doing this, I was able to share my file online with others so people from the U.S., Canada and Mexico could print and cut it, despite it being originally designed for the European standards.”
When asked what it’s like working with his sister on the project, Michael said the two of them have worked together throughout the whole process.
“I did not know how to use a Cricut,” he said. “So, Elizabeth has taught me a few things, and I have taught her a few things.”
“I’ve liked getting to work with my brother on this project and I think it’s a great way to help out hospital workers and others,” said Elizabeth.
The duo’s father, Matt, said their brother, Maguire, has been out bass fishing to avoid conflict amongst siblings as to how “quickly” they should be assembled.
“If you know anything about Maguire, you know he does like to fish… a lot,” added Michael. “He’s always willing to help with anything needed though!”
Michael said this project would not have been possible without the support of community members and businesses. This include 3 Sisters, Carrie Stockman, his parents, Matt and Marinda, his sister, Elizabeth, his grandparents and the Montezuma Community School District.