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Catholic students 3D-print mask tensioners to help medical workers

WVLT 8 - Fair Use

J-P Mauro - published on 04/18/20

Even in isolation, Catholic students are making a difference.

For medical professionals working on the front lines to care for those infected by COVID-19, face masks are a double-edged sword. They protect workers from contamination, but depending on the size and shape of the worker’s heads the masks can either be hard to keep on or painful to wear so tight. CBS showed pictures of nurses getting off shift, and the bruises on their faces are not what these selfless workers deserve.

In order to help in any small way they can, the Robotichauns — a tech club from Knoxville Catholic High School — came up with a wonderful idea. Utilizing the school’s 3D printers, the students designed medical mask tensioners, which are like straps that rest behind the head to hook the straps of medical masks, so that the pressure doesn’t rest on the ears.

Noxville’s WVLT 8 reports that the idea came from Senior Tony Spezi, who worked on the project with the club’s supervising teacher Doug Parris. The two agreed a design they liked and began printing them en masse to send to hospitals in their area. In a video interview with WVLT, Spezi explained that they even went so far as to modify the design to meet the needs of hospital staffs.

“Some of the surgeons and nurses at the hospital said ‘Hey our heads are a little bit too small, is there any way you can get an extra rung on there?'” Spezi said. “I was able to copy the design from [the previous] rung and just shift it down enough to make it easier for the straps to hold.”

Tony further modified the design to bear the letters KCHS to signify that they were printed by Knoxville Catholic High School, and they sent their first batch to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and the University of Tennessee’s Cancer Institute, where they were a hit with medical workers.

The team has produced over 150 of these tensioners, but they’ve already been contacted by Blount Memorial Hospital for more. With many states closed until May, their efforts are sure to continue to be in demand for at least a month.

If you are a medical professional, first responder, or on a hospital staff and are interested in receiving mask tensioners, contact the Robotichauns at You can also contact them if you would like to learn more about how to print these tensioners for your own local hospital, or if you just want to send them some valuable words of support for their good works.

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