Lila Anderson, 10, and and Cora Anderson, 8, help assemble face shields destined for the Gardiner Police Department. Photo courtesy of Russell Anderson

Like nearly everyone else, Russell Anderson has been transfixed by the spread of coronavirus across the world.

Gardiner middle school teacher Russell Anderson models one of the 3D-printed face shields he made that use three-hole binder transparency sheets. He donated a dozen to the Gardiner police and is making more for the fire department. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

As the West Gardiner man has followed the news over the past month or so, he has been struck by one overwhelming fact: The people on the front lines of confronting the highly contagious and fast-spreading virus are lacking personal protective equipment.

“It was mind-blowing to me that these are the people putting their lives on the line every day consistently and they are short of what they need to provide that service,” Anderson said.

It came to him that now is the time to practice what he preaches every year to the dozens of kids he teaches in his science, technology, engineering and math classes at Gardiner Regional Middle School. With the help of Patsy Adams, a Gardiner-area school district colleague, he’s making face shields with the two 3D printers he uses in his classes. Adams is using the 3D printer she got from the Perloff Family Foundation and uses in her class at the Pittston-Randolph Consolidated School in Pittston.

They are among the dozens of volunteers and companies across Maine who have put their time and experience to work to meet a need they’re seeing.

On Tuesday, Anderson delivered his first batch to the Gardiner Police Department and took an order from the Gardiner Fire Department.

Anderson used plans developed by Garrett Lord for the wraparound visor and donated overhead transparency sheets from other teachers for the shield. The result, produced with the help of daughters Lila, 10, and Cora, 8, is a lightweight device requiring no elastic that’s made re-usable by being able to snap a new transparency sheet in place.

Gardiner police Chief James Toman talks Tuesday at Gardiner City Hall about the personal protection equipment made and donated by middle school teacher Russ Anderson. Anderson gave police a dozen 3D-printed face shields that use three-hole binder transparency sheets. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Gardiner Police Chief James Toman said his officers have been issued personal protective equipment like goggles and face masks, but until now, they’ve had nothing like the face shields.

“This is a tool that can be issued to the staff that they can put on under the right circumstances,” Toman said this week, noting that he’s grateful for community partnerships like this one. “We’re not out there putting them on every time we’re dealing with the public because we’re not at that step. But this is something my officers need to be able to have at a moment’s notice, when the situation warrants it.”

Public safety officials have protocols in place to help determine if people seeking help may be infected with the virus or may have come into contact with a health care provider who may have been exposed.

“But if we get a call that requires an officer to go into your home, say for domestic violence, you’re going to get officers in your home to investigate and make sure people are safe,” Toman said.

At the same time, Justin Wing has been working with different technology and different materials to produce face shields at his business, American Awards Inc. in Augusta.

Wing, with his laser engraver that can cut plastic, had made some headsets and shields after being contacted by one of his vendors. Right now, with schools and colleges shut down, his award and trophy business has slowed and he has some time to give to the project.

“I think people are scared and want to take as much precaution as they can,” Wing said. “I think that’s why there is some interest in people wanting some of this stuff outside of a normal vendor situation.”

Wing said while he hasn’t heard locally that demand exists, he has sent several shields to an aunt in Brooklyn who has friends who work in health care. The rate of coronavirus infection is much higher in the New York City area, and thousands of people with COVID-19, the disease caused by the potentially dangerous virus, are being treated in hospitals and makeshift facilities.

“They are more in a war zone-type of scenario,” Wing said, “but I am definitely more in tune with helping people out more local if they need it.”

He has posted information on the shields on the American Awards Facebook page.

What Anderson, Adams and Wing are doing is a very practical application of what Anderson and Adams teach every year.

As a STEM teacher, Anderson spends his time trying to convince his students that it doesn’t matter what their IQ or athletic ability might be, they all have the ability to contribute to make their communities better.

“I can’t think of a better way for me to say, ‘Hey, you know, it’s really important for you to kick in and do something and take action in life, and be a good citizen and provide something positive to the community,” he said.

Adams agrees.

“This is what we want kids to do,” she said. “These 21st century skills where you have to be innovative and you have to think outside the box. And you have to try and fail and try again. This is real-life learning.”

Anderson said he knows he can’t fill large orders.

“I know it’s not a big thing or a huge thing,” he said. “But I said, ‘Look, what can I do?’ What better way to practice what you preach and show students we can make a difference.”

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