McPherson County MakerSpace serves the community

By Jessie Wagoner

 

Problem solving is what the makers at McPherson County MakerSpace are good at. They see a problem and come up with a solution. It is what makers have always done, but community members have taken particular notice of their efforts over the last several weeks. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, MakerSpace reached out to area agencies offering their assistance. Michael Yates with McPherson County MakerSpace says their offer wasn’t unique, as MakerSpaces across the country were doing the same thing. 

“We are part of a community of MakerSpaces across the county,” Yates said. “This isn’t exclusive to McPherson. Virtually every makerspace has viewed this as a call to action. Some are producing PPE, surgical mask extension straps, pieces for civilians and the medical field. The spirit of makerspaces is very much about cooperation and collaboration.” 

McPherson County MakerSpace has tapped into the resources provided by MakerSpaces across the country to help their local community. Currently, Yates and Kelly Bruce have taken on making surgical mask extender straps. The straps help relieve pressure on the ears and prevent irritation for those who are having to wear masks for a long period of time. 

“MakerSpaces across the country have been pooling ideas and files and patterns, so we all can draw on that,” Yates said. “When this started, we took an assessment of our equipment and assessed what we can do and can’t do. We looked at the needs of our community and decided the strap extenders would be a place to start.” 

Yates said early communications with the hospital indicated they were in a good position with adequate PPE and all the essential items they needed. MakerSpace did donate a small supply of N-95 masks they had on hand and then turned their attention to quality of life items, like the mask straps. With a plan in place, Yates and Bruce went to work, taking turns going into MakerSpace every few hours to take the straps off the 3-D printers, reset the equipment and start another batch. 

Using a 3-D printer isn’t a fast process. But, with their efforts and printing 24 hours a day, they were able to produce 50-60 straps a day. So far, almost 900 printing hours have been devoted to the cause.  The hospital wanted 50 straps and so did the post office. A local industry requested 200 straps and medical facilities throughout McPherson received small batches of straps, as well. 

“We are still making them,” Yates said. “But at this point, we have filled all the orders we had initially. We get requests for 10 or so and I can drop those off to people. We will keep making them as long as there is a need.” 

While it is likely we will see the community reopening in a few weeks and many of us will return to normal, this crisis won’t be over anytime soon for medical professionals. They will continue to confront the virus for months to come. 

Yates says the MakerSpace remains committed to continuing their support. They wouldn’t be surprised if they distributed 800-1,000 straps before the year ends. 

 

“We are donating them,” Yates said. “We have had a number of generous donations in return to help pay for material costs. It isn’t about the money, it is about making sure people are taken care of but it is nice to see people believe in what we are doing and want to support it.” 

 

The McPherson County MakerSpace has been a resource for the community since opening and strives to continue in that role in the future. Yates says the MakerSpace community looks forward to continuing their partnerships with local businesses and community members. McPherson County MakerSpace offers memberships for individuals and businesses. 

 

“We have a flexible space and a number of resources at our disposal to be an asset to the community,” Yates said. 

 

Anyone in need of mask straps can make a request by messaging Yates via the McPherson County MakerSpace Facebook page.