ANNA - Under normal circumstances, Anna High School’s makerspace would be full of students learning to create new things.
These days, the facility has been temporarily transformed into the headquarters for a coordinated volunteer effort.
For the past month, students and staff have worked to provide face shields, masks and other necessities for those who need them most.
The effort was spearheaded by Emily Burk, the makerspace integrated technology specialist. She began by posting information on social media about how to make masks.
Student Noah McElewey volunteered to use his home 3-D printer to make certain parts.
Spanish teacher Martha Rodriguez sewed cloth masks at home.
Makerspace club students Isabella Wasson, Victoria Aragon-Marcial and Bianca Dickinson also volunteered to sew masks.
Burk made kits for the students to check out, along with sewing machines that normally don’t leave school property.
In order to keep things safe, Burk implemented a sanitary curbside pickup process that maintained proper social distancing.
At the same time, Burk learned through online research that other makerspaces around the world were making protective face shields for first responders.
She reached out a Canadian technology company and a Houston nonprofit asking to use their designs. This led her to a lab in the Czech Republic that was willing to share its files.
"It’s been cool to see the maker community and fabrication lab community really come together and use their innovative and brightest minds to create for a cause, and to be so willing to collaborate and share with one another to help everyone around the world," Burk said.
Anna High School’s 3,744 square-foot makerspace fabrication lab is the only one in the state that serves a comprehensive public high school.
Other than a few specialized academies, this type of facility is usually only found at the college level.
It features multiple 3D printers, laser engravers, a plasma cutter, tape maker and other tools designed to develop items for engineering and manufacturing.
The facility is part of the district’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) initiative.
It was funded in large part by a 2016 bond election that also helped create an audio/video studio, graphic design facility, mock hospital, engineering lab, high-end printing facility and others in the school’s new wing.
"It’s something the we are very proud of and want more people to know about," CTE Coordinator Ted Mackey said.
After testing the new face shield design, Burk reached out to Mackey and Jennifer Kelly, executive director of secondary education, to discuss the next steps.
They decided to send a letter to an advisory team of first responders, healthcare workers, the Great Anna Chamber of Commerce and others to gauge community needs.
High school health science teacher Dr. Nicholas Mitchell pooled together supplies from the school's mock hospital for donation to those who could use them.
Other teachers and administrative personnel joined to help assemble the masks and deliver them to places including the Anna Fire Department and Pate Rehabilitation.
The efforts were made all the more challenging by social distancing requirements that prohibit them from working physically close to each other or gathering together at the makerspace.
Going forward, Burk plans the communicate via the Anna Makerspace and Anna CTE social media platforms about how others interested can help with these efforts. Face shields, as well as masks and hospital gowns, continue to be in demand.
"We have some awesome students," she said. "It’s a collaborative effort with teachers and employees. I think it’s really awesome that other people are getting involved and helping."