Monroe County robotics team helping in the fight against COVID-19
Cover Photo: Cade McMunigal holds a box of completed face shields in his father’s garage.
It’s not cheap being a successful robotics team.
There are travel costs getting to competitions, hotel rooms, and tournament entrance fees.
But the teenagers on the “MCubed” robotics team in Monroe County have been fortunate in the backing they’ve received locally.
“It’s unreal the level of support that this community has given these kids,” said Mike McMunigal, the Conservation Services Manager South for the WVCA. Mike has served as a five-year mentor for the Monroe County, WV FIRST Robotics FTC Team.
Fundraising projects or requests from a local Lions Club or Ruritan Club don’t go unanswered, he said, and businesses like Collins Aerospace have offered invaluable help.
So when it came time to give back to their community, students on the robotics team like Ian Jackson and Cade McMunigal, Mike’s son, jumped at the opportunity to use 3-D printers to create headbands for face shields. “Personal protective equipment” like face shields are now in high demand, as they’re needed by health-care professionals while combatting COVID-19.
Mike said a company had put the design for the face shield headbands online for free, and team members took that design and tweaked it a bit.
They’ve secured elastic and 4’ x 4’ plastic sheets to use in the production of the face shields.
The headbands are printed on three different 3-D printers. The robotics team has their own and officials with Monroe County Schools have allowed the students to use the two other printers, and from home.
At first, with Mike’s help, the plastic was cut on the table saw in his garage and then the rough edges were smoothed out. The process, however, was rudimentary and very painstaking and slow from a production standpoint, Mike said.
That’s when Collins Aerospace stepped in. The company makes composite and rubber materials for the aerospace industry.
Using their capabilities, they were able to cut out the pattern for the face shields exactly as it needed to be, Mike said.
“They were able to kick out these plastic shields for the kids and then get them sent back so they could be fitted to the headbands,” he said.
Mike said the students have been in contact with the Monroe County school nurse, who has helped with the distribution of the completed face shields.
At this point, the robotics students have been able to produce about 500 face shields, which have been distributed to workers with the Monroe Health Center, Summers County ARH Hospital, Celanese, Peterstown EMS, Collins Aerospace, Killcollin Dental, Greenbrier Valley Medical Center (GVMC), the GVMC’s OB unit, the Union Rescue Squad, Hoke Dental, Panucci Dental, Springfield Nursing Home and the WVCA.
The “MCubed” team is part of the Monroebotics 4-H Club, which includes several robotics teams made up of middle and high school students.
(Photos below: (Left) Team member Ian Jackson holding a box of 3-D-printed headbands that will be used to make face shields; (Right) An Ultimaker 3-D printer with a completed headband for a face shield.)