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January 16, 2021

San Lucas School uses 3D printer to create mask filters for essential workers

Collaboration helps address shortage of personal protective equipment

SAN LUCAS — When the Covid-19 pandemic closed school campuses for the remainder of the academic year, San Lucas School Principal and District Superintendent Jessica Riley was disappointed her students wouldn’t have an opportunity to see its new 3D printer in action. 

Donated by oil and gas producer Aera Energy in San Ardo, Riley is now using that 3D printer to show how a small school in rural Monterey County can make a difference in a time of crisis by producing filters for masks used by first responders and essential healthcare workers in the Salinas Valley.

Acting on an idea first shared by Aera, San Lucas School has partnered with the Monterey County Free Libraries to create masks for first responders and essential healthcare workers at Natividad Medical Center in Salinas.

Riley makes 20 filters a week with the help of her son Josh, a junior at King City High School. The filters accompany the Montana masks printed by the library system’s 3D printer.

“We want our children, parents and this community to know we’re all in this together right now,” Riley said. “Our students have limited life experiences due to the nature of our location and it’s important to connect rural students with the rest of the world. This effort shows students that in a time of crisis, even our small town can make a big difference in the larger community.”

Riley said the filter project also demonstrates an important real-life application of the printer and how communities can come together to meet local needs. 

“We donated the printer to inspire students to design, experiment, build, invent and collaborate,” said Kathy Miller, Aera’s public affairs coordinator for Monterey County. “They may not be able to use it at the moment, but students are able to see firsthand how organizations can come together to help fulfill a great need. This is a great example of Monterey County helping Monterey County. We hope that when they are able to safely return to school, this project will inspire students to put the printer to good use and maybe even find new ways to help in their community.”

The 3D printer, donated by Aera last winter, is put on display in the school’s lobby once a week. Students are able to learn about the filters that are being created when they come to pick up their school lunches.

Students also write thank you cards to first responders and healthcare workers, which are distributed along with the masks.

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