CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Engineering teachers at Charlottesville High School are making personal protective equipment for health care workers up against the coronavirus using 3-D printers. 

When Matt Shields learned that PPE was running out around the world, he thought about how he could help by 3-D printing masks and face shields in order to help health care workers right here in Charlottesville.

Shields said it all started from simply asking his own friends who work in the health care industry if they needed anything. He started making face masks for his doctor friends, and then an EMT who used to be a student of his asked for face shields.

"I made I think 25 for him and then I got an email for a surgeon at [Sentara] Martha Jefferson [Hospital] and she wanted some,” said Shields, “and I made another 25 or 30 for her, and then it just kind of started to snowball."

Now he has made hundreds of 3-D printed face shields in the CHS engineering department, and even pieces people outside of the health care industry may not think about, like "plastic ear relievers."

"It just relieves some of the pressure from people who have to wear masks all day long,” said Shields. “Eventually that pain can become debilitating as you're wearing, you have this stress on the back of your ears all day long."

Every shield is made with a little extra love and gratitude. In tiny letters at the bottom, it says "Thank you! CHS Engineering." And at the top corner, there is the Cville heart logo.

"I got a text a couple days ago from a doctor in the PICU saying that she almost cried when she saw the Cville heart in the corner,” said Shields.

Even though students can't be in the building to help him, he is still able to teach them a valuable lesson.

"Something I tell my students I think every single day in my engineering class is that the job of the engineer is to make the world a better place,” said Shields. “They're helping me with some of the design and optimization of some of this equipment and they can know that they're tangentially connected to something really important. That the work that they've been doing over the last couple of years, here's an example of how you learn a couple of skills and you can be making life-saving equipment."

Shields is not alone. Several other CHS engineering teachers are also rotating through the lab to help keep the 3-D printers going and put together the masks. Karl Helmstetter, a Physics and Engineering Teacher at CHS, is one of them. Helmstetter played a big part in designing the 3-D printed masks and community outreach.


The masks are part of a larger effort of people around Charlottesville finding ways to make more PPE. Dozens of people in the community are communicating together on Slack to organize the making and collecting of their PPE.

Shields said they welcome any donations that will help them continue to purchase the material needed to make the face shields and other PPE. You can donate by mailing a check to the Charlottesville High School Engineering Department at CHS, 1400 Melbourne Road, Charlottesville, VA 22901.