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Cyber school student makes face shields to help hospitals during pandemic

CCA freshman has donated 40 face shields to local hospitals using his 3D printer and plans to make more during the COVID-19 crisis.

A CCA freshman from Waynesboro is putting his technical know-how to work for the area’s health care community by using his 3D printer to make face shields for a local hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.

Drake Christianson learned from a parent involved with his FIRST Robotics Club that the staff at UPMC Carlisle had a significant need for personal protective equipment (PPE). He then read in an online technology group about people who were creating that equipment with 3D printers for a Baltimore hospital.

“I thought it would be really cool since I have the ability to help,” said Drake, who has attended CCA for two years. “I live in a very rural area where there’s not much technology to produce these masks.” 

Between working on his family’s horse farm in Waynesboro, playing the piano on his YouTube channel, growing bonsai trees and sunflowers, and practicing taekwondo, Drake found the time to master 3D printing.

“The main factor that sparked my interest in 3D printing is the ability to create an infinite amount of objects from a simple spool of plastic,” Drake said. “How 3D printing works is you have a spool of plastic, it melts and goes layer by layer, and it creates different shapes. So if you need a jar, you can just print a jar.”

He put that interest to work when he realized his robotics club owned a 3D printer that no one knew how to use. 

“I was the first to figure out how to do it at the robotics club, and then I purchased my own personal 3D printer,” he said. 

Armed with the idea to help the hospital, Drake researched which types of plastic could withstand being sterilized and found an open-source design for the shield online.

Drake’s father, Christopher, is a mentor with the robotics club and helped with logistics, including providing the materials and setting up a production line. But he downplayed his own role in the effort.

“Drake is the 3D-printer guru,” Christopher said. “He owned this project from top to bottom and brought this all to life.”

Drake printed an initial test batch of 10 shields, and an internal team at the hospital provided feedback. 

“With everything shut down, we can’t find a heavier-grade plastic, but they are still able to use it,” Christopher said. “It will help them prolong the life of their N95 respirators.”

On his own, Drake can print four shields a day, or an average of 28 a week. By mid-April he already had 40 to donate. Other members of the robotics team have joined the effort, and now two more 3D printers are producing additional components.

Drake, who hopes to study astrophysics in college, credits CCA’s flexible schedule for enabling him to undertake projects like this and to participate in so many other activities.

“I have a very busy life, and it’s nice to be able to work at 5 a.m. or 6 p.m., if I wanted to,” he said. “I also like how enthusiastic and knowledgeable the staff are.”

His father noted that CCA’s vast offerings, such as the AgWorks at CCAaquaponics lab in Harrisburg, field trips and travel-abroad program, provide strong opportunities for students to develop career-ready skills

“This effort is a great opportunity for CCA students to use technology to connect with one another and support causes like this,” Christopher said of the PPE donations. “It really highlights the technical savvy a lot of the high schoolers have at CCA.




May 13th, 2020


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