Washington HS engineering students learn new skill with face shield project

For Booker T. Washington High School sophomore Rebecca Stansell, the first day of face-to-face instruction for the 2020-21 school year had some added emotion – and even a few nerves.

HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan was scheduled to visit the historic Independence Heights neighborhood campus on the first day of face-to-face instruction, where she would be greeted by Stansell and fellow engineering students with a customized face shield designed to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

“It was thrilling, but a little nerve-racking because I had never met the superintendent. There was a lot of moving around, and a lot of people.” Stansell said. “We assembled her face shield last week, and I think she was happy – and even a little surprised – to see that we customized it by putting her name on the shield.”

Since March, students in the school’s engineering professions magnet program have been producing protective face shields by using 3D printers. The work began as a call-to-action to fill an immediate need for personal protective equipment due to the spread of COVID-19.

The district and campus partnered with local non-profit TX/RX Labs to assist in the production of thousands of face shields that were provided to first responders across Texas. Students were offered the opportunity to take home with them school-issued 3D printers when the district shifted to virtual instruction, where they produced the shield holders for TX/RX Labs to distribute to first responders. According to Washington HS engineering instructor Dr. Nghia Le, students produced the shield holders for nearly 24 hours per day, with each one taking approximately four hours to assemble.

Before the return to face-to-face-instruction, students produced a face shield for every Washington High School staff member. Now, in their free time, students are producing the shields for principals at neighboring campuses.

“Providing our students with opportunities to apply the skills they are learning in the lab to giving back to the community is so important,” Dr. Le said. “I want our students to attach a takeaway to each of their projects. I want them to see how engineering can be applied in everyday settings, and the work they performed right here in this lab potentially saved lives.”

For Stansell, the coursework in the engineering lab is motivating her to serve others.

“Doing as much as I can to help others through my strengths is fulfilling to me,” Stansell said. “Seeing the outcome and positive effects of our work in this program motivates me to meet my future goals.”

Face shields produced by Booker T. Washington High School engineering students start at $12. You can order one here.