There are few places where the nuance of facial expression matters more than it does at the Howard Center. The Vermont-based nonprofit provides mental health and developmental disability services as well as substance abuse & recovery services to people of all ages in the Burlington area. And the social distancing and mask-wearing protocols necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, while critical to protecting the health and safety of clients and staff, presented a significant barrier to communication—particularly in its work with children and teens returning to school.
Nearby in Williston, the Parker LORD MicroStrain team recognized the dilemma and identified an opportunity to come to the aid of its community and help further the good work of the Howard Center at the same time. The team, part of the Noise, Vibration and Harshness Division, began looking into the feasibility of using its 3D printer to make clear face shields that would enable clinicians to communicate more effectively.
Taylor Ducharme, design engineer at Parker LORD, found open-source plans for printing face shield frames, managed production of the 3D components and procured the other required parts. The team then worked with the Howard Center to ensure the PPE met all state requirements by using laser foam cutouts to fill a gap between the visor and the wearer’s forehead. After several weeks of printing and assembly, Parker LORD was able to produce 75 lightweight face shields, which were distributed to the clinicians and the supervisory team of Howard Center’s School Services Program.
Whether meeting with students, faculty, staff or caregivers, all clinicians must wear masks or face shields. This donation enabled Howard Center to provide each clinician with a protective face shield that meets the PPE requirements of the Agency of Education.
“Going back into the school buildings this year brings such mixed emotions to many of us,” said Melissa McConnel, school services senior clinician at Howard Center. “Having these face shields provides us with added protection that is truly needed and appreciated. This allows us to focus on what we all love to do most, which is to support our students and school colleagues!”
For Parker LORD, being able to put manufacturing resources to use in a way that directly benefits families and individuals during these challenging times is its own reward.
“Our team is innovative, active and present throughout our local communities,” said Steve Mundell, business unit manager for Parker LORD. “We are proud to be a part of supporting Howard Center as they continue to provide much needed mental health, developmental and substance recovery services to our friends and neighbors during the pandemic.”
In what has been an unprecedented and difficult year, this MicroStrain project highlights how even a basic idea can inspire team members, spread compassion and create a positive impact within the local community.