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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

Normal West Teacher Uses 3D Printer To Help Healthcare Workers

Joe Rosel
Joe Rosel
Joe Rosel is a technology and engineering teacher at Normal West. Here he is with one of his "ear savers."

With healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment has become vital to keep them safe. While masks are one of the most important tools used for protection, wearing one for long hours in a hot environment can cause extreme skin irritation.

That's where Normal West high school teacher Joe Rosel comes in. 

After hearing of how other engineering teachers across the country had begun creating medical supplies, Rosel decided to use his resources to contribute too. 

"If I can do something, I kind of have a duty to do it at this point."

“My sister is an X-ray tech and she's having to deal with this virus on the front lines. I'm one of those guys that would never be able to forgive myself if my family, friends or anybody that I knew was going through something and I could do something but just chose not to,” Rosel said. “I have a 3D printer at work so I thought, if I can do something, I kind of have a duty to do it at this point.”

Rosel created ear savers—little parts that protect a person’s ears from the elastic band of a mask—to help medical professionals work more comfortably. 

“On the mask, they have a little elastic band that goes around the medical professional’s ears and they're having to wear this mask their entire shift. One of the nurses I know in Orlando said her ears were completely raw and they were having to put Band-Aids on the back of them for protection. As soon as I heard that, I immediately went to 3D printing everything I could,” he said. 

Rosel has created over 100 ear savers so far. He’s planning to share them across the country. 

“I've been 3D printing for the last week so it's been a lot of early mornings and late nights. I just sent a batch of a little over 100 to a hospital in Florida and my next batch of a couple hundred will go to the McLean County Emergency Management Agency,” he said.

Rosel is also continuing to work from home as an engineering teacher. He hopes his new effort will have a positive impact on his remote-learning students.

“Nobody joins the teaching profession thinking, ‘Oh, I'm just going to stay at home and teach online.’ I became a teacher so I can interact with students and have that face-to-face time, so it's definitely been a big adjustment. But at the same time, it gives me a kind of a different feel for teaching. It all is allowing me to impact my students in a different way,” he said.

While the pandemic has yet to reach its peak in the U.S., Rosel said if the country ever faces something like it again, everyone will hopefully be more prepared. 

“With this coronavirus, nobody really knew what to do. But now everyone's jumping in and contributing so I think in the future if this were to happen again, there would be a game plan and everyone would immediately go to work,” he said.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Tiffani Jackson is a reporting intern at WGLT and a student at Illinois State University's School of Communication. She started working at WGLT in summer 2019.
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