Life lesson in helping others: A robotics team’s new project during the COVID-19 pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic short-circuited the robotics season for high school teams across Minnesota. Now, the KnightKrawler Robotics team from Irondale High School in the north metro is working to build face shields for those battling COVID-19 on the front lines.

Team members use the lab at Chippewa Middle School in North Oaks to run 3D printers 10 hours a day to create face shields.

The students and volunteer coaches all wear masks and are socially distanced during the production of the shields.

"There's been a shortage of them recently because of the coronavirus," said senior Kyle Warren. “Helping out medical workers, it's a really nice thing to be doing."

The printers create a visor that the team and their coaches then attach plastic shields to complete.

Some of the plastic used in production came from the team’s reserves that they had planned to use this robotics season at competitions.

"I love the opportunity of giving our robotics students whose season was canceled a way to turn what was looking to be a very successful season, instead of something being less, being so much more," said Scott Davis, one of the volunteer coaches.

The shields have been donated to local law enforcement, including the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Mounds View Police Department and numerous hospitals.

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"It's amazing to see the reach we've had," said junior Maria Johnson, who helps spread the word about their project on social media that they are making around 200 a day.

"We can help a lot of different kinds of people who are out on the front lines working with this," Johnson said.

The team is looking for help from manufacturing companies that have access to thin PET or PETG plastic sheets that students can then use their laser cutter on to make the clear shield for the mask.

The KnightKrawler team received a $5,000 commitment from the Mounds View Schools Educational Foundation for supplies.

The students had qualified to compete at the FIRST World Championship this year, and had budgeted money for the trip, but are instead using it to help first responders.