ANNA - Anna High School senior Noah McElwey has been mowing lawns since he was a freshman.

This year he’s been working harder than ever to save money for college. However, that hasn’t stopped him diverting some of his profits to a greater cause.

This weekend, he hopes to produce around 50 bands to be used on protective face masks.

Due to COVID-19, an increasing number of people are wearing masks on a daily basis. Many of them complain that the straps cut into their ears, making for a rather unpleasant experience.

McElwey discovered he can create a more comfortable band using his 3D printer.

“3D printing is a hobby of mine,” he said. “I figured the printer is just sitting there right now, so why not make use of it?”

Anna High School Ag teacher Jeff Morris asked the teen about making the bands.

He and the school’s Makerspace Operator Emily Burk are working with other Anna ISD personnel to produce protective equipment for healthcare works and first responders.

Since his school and work schedule do not leave much time for assisting in those efforts, McElwey decided he could make bands on the weekend when he has some free time.

“I’m going to donate half to Mr. Morris and donate the rest to a hospital or whoever needs them,” he said.

His 3D printer can also make masks that people can then put filters in. However, this is a more difficult and time-consuming process.

McElwey has made fabric masks for a couple of people that requested them. However, since others in the area are doing that as well, he’s decided to focus his efforts for now on bands.

After announcing on the All About Anna Facebook page that he could help with masks and bands, a resident donated $25. That will cover the cost of one 3D printer filament spool. Morris also donated an additional spool.

McElwey first became familiar with 3D printing at the end of his freshman year when he tried to incorporate it into a school project.

His cousin, a student at Letourneau University in Longview, told him about a program where students build their own printers and then sell them inexpensively.

McElwey bought one and rigged it to meet his needs. He then built his own 3D printer using parts he found on the internet.

After trading that for a graphics card (he builds computers, too), the teen got a nicer printer that allows him to more easily make items like masks.

When McElwey started mowing lawns, he attached a small trailer to his bike so he could haul his equipment around town.

After he got a car and his drivers license, he converted an old jet ski trailer into a small flatbed.

Come this fall, he will attend Texas A&M University on a partial scholarship. The money he’s made through mowing lawns has put him on track to finish college debt-free.

While spending the last half of his senior year at home is not what he wanted, McElwey doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about it.

“There’s no sense being mad about something you can’t change, so I might as well just make the best of it,” he said. “I’m able to get schoolwork done a lot faster, and then I can mow more grass and make more money.”