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Eighth Grader Designs, 3-D Prints, And Builds Face Masks for Doctors, Nurses And Long-Term Care Staff

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In some ways, this eighth-grade student from Toronto named Warren Richmond is a lot like every other kid in the days of COVID-19. His favorite activities — in Warren’s case, hockey — were rudely interrupted by the global pandemic. What Warren did next, though, makes him stand out as someone special. 

A Hockey Season Rudely Interrupted

Warren’s hockey team was in the second round of the playoffs, and the series was all knotted up at three games each. The decisive seventh game was first postponed, then canceled as the new reality of an international pandemic set in. It was a big deal to Warren, who’d been skating since he was three and playing hockey since he was five — he plays goalie and is on the ice five days a week in more normal times.

Warren is more than a hockey player, though. He’s also into design and spent a lot of time in his school’s design lab using its 3-D printer. He and pals made, perhaps, predictable things, like Spiderman’s web spinner. Richmond was so into design and creativity, that he got his own 3-D printer upon graduating from seventh grade in 2019. 

What To Do In The Face Of A Pandemic?

What’s an eighth-grade hockey goaltender with a passion for design and fabrication to do when he can’t play hockey or even go to school in the throes of a global pandemic? 

Make masks, of course. Not goalie masks, but protective masks for the staff at The Hospital for Sick Children — better known as SickKids — in Toronto. Making masks for medical purposes is a specific and important task and not one that anyone should take lightly. Resourceful Warren Richmond certainly didn’t.

It Takes A Whole Family

Richmond and his parents reached out to a friend who worked at SickKids to get pointed in the right direction — to the infectious disease team who told Warren exactly what was needed.

Richmond’s great-uncle was able to come up with a roll of polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG) plastic. It’s exactly what was required to make masks because it has a high enough melting point to withstand being sterilized.  That roll? Big enough to make 600 masks, Richmond figured.

Cutting the PETG material without a laser cutter was going to be a challenge, but one surmounted by using a paper slicer borrowed from his dad’s office. With PETG in hand, all that was left was to come up with the headbands for the masks. It was a cinch for someone with design and 3-D printing chops.

Richmond designed the bands to be made from filament with his 3-D printer and set to producing them — one every hour or two. Between Richmond and his parents, they punched holes in the sized and cut PETG, assembled the pieces, and attached protective elastic. 

Those headbands Warren designed? Not just utilitarian plastic fasteners. No, they came with inspiring messages too, such as, “We can do it!” complete with a Rosie the Riveter profile suggested by Mom. What was Warren thinking of during this whole time? He told his story to Toronto Life’s Courtney Shea. Here’s what he said:

“I tried to put myself in their shoes and think of what might make them smile. That’s when I came up with my novelty headband designs, inspired by superheroes and other things kids love—Spider-Man, the Avengers, and Black Panther, as well as the Leafs and Raptors.” 

And so he did. Warren set out about making themed masks, even fielding a suggestion to make a Peppa Pig-themed mask for medical staff treating children.

Where’s the hockey connection? Well, Warren’s goalie coach stepped up on the fundraising side with a goal of $1,500 through a GoFundMe campaign. After raising $6,500 in just days, they donated $5,000 to SickKids and bought filament for 600 masks. 

Speaking Of Super Heroes…

Richmond and family have made and delivered 156 masks to SickKids, who told him their needs had been met. Richmond didn’t stop, though. He kept making masks, including 50 for McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton. What does Richmond plan to do next? Masks for staff at long-term care facilities. And why? First, he says, to take his mind off hockey. He misses it. Much more than that, though: “I like being able to contribute and help people who are making sacrifices to keep everyone safe.” 

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