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Equipping the Frontline with Masks: Avon's Student-Made 3D Printer Enters the Battle

Equipping the Frontline with Masks: Avon's Student-Made 3D Printer Enters the Battle

There is a shortage of face masks for many of our nation’s frontline healthcare workers waging war against COVID-19. In this unprecedented crisis, the community—neighbors, technicians, Avonians—are quickly banding together to create masks from scratch for first responders, police officers, and firefighters. 

When the pandemic rippled through the tri-state area, Avon Old Farms past parent Nancy Ross (Jeremy ’12) joined forces with a small team of volunteers to engage and then combat the enemy at hand. The team determined the most important thing they could do was to help first aid workers gear up to safeguard against the virus. The strategy was simple: they needed to produce face shields with 3D printers and acetate slides. So, this army of regular people delved into the first stage of their heroic plan to source and secure compatible 3D printers. 

A First Responder wears the 3D printed/acetate shield mask created by the team.

As a parent who believes in the values of Avon Old Farms, Nancy recalled the school’s engineering inventory and had a feeling her plea would be greeted with compassion and swift aid. She was right.

Shortly after Headmaster Detora received the request to borrow the engineering program’s student-made Prusa 3D printer, a Farmington sergeant arrived on campus to secure the device from the Forge Robotics Center. The precious cargo was delivered to the home of a volunteer to begin making face masks: mission accomplished.

Beth Larson, Avon's engineering program coordinator, assisted the officer with the transition of the printer. 

“This printer was built by a few of our robotics team members, in particular, juniors Jun Park and Marco Pang—and now it’s being used to save lives,” she said.

Marco Pang ’21 is honored that a project he worked on at Avon Old Farms is affecting the outcome of this war on the pandemic.

“We initially built this 3D printer to lay a better foundation for our annual robot competition, but we did not expect that it would ever help local communities and schools carry out protective work," he shared. "I am glad that the printer I built can assist our entire Avon community, and I am grateful to the teachers for their help and support.”

Pang and Park engineering parts with members of Club Forge in the Avon Robotics Center.

The AOF 3D printer making mask headbands.

Jun Park ’21 hopes that more people will see the greater capacity of 3D printers like the one he helped create. 

“These machines are not only for our robotics team, the 3D printer in real life is evaluated as a groundbreaking technology," shared Park. "It provides a lot of help to industries such as demonstrating, building, testing, and even supplying medical tools. I hope that more and more people get interested in 3D printers and come up with creative inventions in the future.” 

Upon learning that the printer he worked on was being used in such a meaningful way, Jun asked for a photo of the face shield as he is building his own printer in China. Another student, Oleh Kolchanov ’22, also requested the blueprint for the masks so he could begin creating them with his own Prusa printer at home in Ukraine.

The Avon Old Farms 3D printer is furiously pumping out headbands that attach to acetate face shields in the home of an able technician. So far, the team of volunteers and eight school-provided printers have created over 500 protective masks. The shields are delivered to eager hands at the Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, Waterbury Hospital, and St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury. Once every first responder has dependable protective gear, the team hopes to provide their bootlegged masks to grocery store workers.

Along with her team of heroes, Nancy will continue to wage battle by creating acetate face shields and sourcing paper masks, disposable stethoscopes, and other essential gear. She acknowledges her gratitude to Avon Old Farms and the students that built the printer saying, “I want to thank every person that is touching Avon Old Farms—this school that is rising to the occasion. The AOF 3D printer is literally saving lives.”

Charlotte Hungerford First Responders thank Nancy and her team for the delivery of face masks. 

If you can help Nancy and her team source medical grade disposable paper masks, N95 respirator masks, and/or disposable stethoscope, please email Nancy Ross at