Stratford Academy Teachers Use School’s Spring Break for Medical Mask Production

Staff Report From Middle Georgia CEO

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Several weeks ago, pediatric dentist, Dr. Margaret Moore, shared with one of her children’s teachers, Holly Leskovics, that she and her staff were anxious about the impending medical mask shortage and how it might affect her practice. Pediatric Dentistry of Central Georgia was continuing to treat emergent pediatric dental patients during the COVID-19 health crisis. Leskovics teaches STEAM (science/technology/engineering/art/math) to students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade at Stratford Academy in Macon. Since critical thinking and problem solving are at the heart of every STEAM exercise, she enthusiastically and eagerly took on the opportunity to put those skills to use for a real-life situation.

Moore had found a website called Fired By Corona created by a dentist who had created a 3-D mask digital file, but she needed help opening and reading the file with the appropriate software. Moore asked Leskovics if she wouldn’t mind helping since she knew she had experience with 3-D printers.

“I teach my students 3-D design using a program called Tinkercad,” said Leskovics. “So, I downloaded the file in there to see what was involved.” On her own, Leskovics found another file online called the Montana mask designed by Dr. Dusty Richardson, Dr. Spencer Zaugg, and Colton Zaugg. Moore and Leskovics then collaborated on a design for a mask frame that combined the best of both models for Leskovics to print. Moore purchased headbands and a HEPA-certified lawn mower filter to assemble with the frame, then sealed it to create a medical-grade mask that would make everyone at Pediatric Dentistry of Central Georgia rest easier.

Moore thanked Leskovics by posting on their practice social media how appreciative they were for the masks. That garnered the attention of local allergist, Dr. Jeff Langford. He also had been researching how to make your own medical mask. Langford’s children are students of Leskovics at Stratford Academy as well, so he reached out with his own design idea.

Langford’s design required that the Montana mask be altered to fit the circular filters found in a device he uses in his practice for testing lung capacity. Leskovics enlisted the help of Stratford’s upper school computer science teacher, Mike McCue, to download the file into Fusion 360, where modifications were made to fit the circular filters while Leskovics built a circular grid in Tinkercad. With adaptations to the Montana mask from the website, Langford’s filters, and the sealant from Dr. Moore, the three created a mask with a viral efficiency of 99.97% that suited everyone’s needs and could be custom sized in small, medium, and large.

“The assertion is that the masks we created, when fitted correctly, have a better viral filtration efficiency than the industrial grade NP-95 masks that we’ve all become familiar with,” said Langford.

Langford outfitted his staff with the new mask and the word spread to another physician and Stratford parent, Dr. Josh Perkel. His staff of 55 needed access to medical-grade safety equipment, too. With the large order to fill, Leskovics enlisted the assistance of Joseph Slappey, a Stratford alumnus and recent University of Georgia mechanical engineering graduate, who has extensive experience with 3-D printers. Leskovics, McCue, and Slappey, as well as parent and alumni volunteers are mass producing the frames for the school parents in the medical community who contact them. The volunteers each take turns operating printers and assembling the masks. To date, hundreds of masks have been produced by volunteers in Macon and Atlanta for Stratford parents and alumni with medical practices from Macon to Saipan.

While the intersection of science and technology in the lab is producing novel solutions, middle school French teacher, Lauren Parris, is using her age-old sewing skills. Parris is an experienced seamstress who is lead costume mistress for the Nutcracker of Middle Georgia and has years of experience with costume design for Theatre Macon and the Mercer University theatre department. During her spring break, Parris jumped into action along with colleagues from Mercer to sew masks for local medical personnel. Currently, they have distributed 377 masks and have more in production, which will have them at more than 400 masks sewn.

“About a week ago, I was tagged along with two other ladies in a social media post that expressed a need for washable masks,” explains Parris. “So, we each raided our fabric stashes and met in the shop at the Mercer University theatre department to grind some out. It has turned into such a rewarding project.”

Leading students through Stratford’s Distance Learning Plan has been eye-opening for teachers Leskovics, McCue, and Parris. They all wanted to use their talents to help the medical community on the frontline with needs for battling COVID-19. The school’s spring break allowed them a little time away from the virtual classroom to jump in and help the school’s parent community.

Even with school back in session now, parents, students, and co-workers who know Leskovics would describe her as a passionate STEAM educator. The creation and production of the medical masks that she helped design has certainly taken that passion to a new level as she leads teams of volunteers to continue producing these masks to meet the needs of the medical community.