10 questions for Heather Durnin

I’ve known Heather Durnin for quite some time now.  She’s an educator with the Avon Maitland District School Board, currently working at Goderich Public School.

Looking back, Heather has been a presenter at the Bring IT Together conference, led a workshop at the Western RCAC Symposium in 2011 https://sites.google.com/site/westernrcac/breakout-sessions and served on the BIT 14 Conference Committee. 

She is a leader on a number of initiatives including the use of 3D printing in the classroom.  It was at the Symposium in 2011 that she and Peter McAsh met for the first time.  Recently, Peter shared with me that she was still working with 3D printing during these stay at home days.  She agreed to tell us what she’s up to.  Good news like this needs to be shared.

Doug:  Thanks so much for agreeing to do this, Heather.  I know that your educational world has been turned upside down these days.  Hopefully, these questions will be a nice distraction.

Heather: As we were heading into March Break, the students were halfway through their 3D design project which has now come to an abrupt halt. Lots of disappointed kids. 

Doug:  For a while, you’ve been doing creative things to allow students to enjoy a maker experience with a 3D printer.  What sorts of things have you and students been able to create?

Heather: For the past several years, I’ve integrated design thinking into my Gr. 6 Language program by following the City X Project platform. The premise of this project is based on the narrative where humans have landed on an alien planet. As they begin to build a new city, City X, they are faced with a number of challenges including health, safety, education to name a few. Each student in my class is assigned one of these problems and they must design solutions to solve the problem. Pretty eerie that we were doing this project, when Covid-19 hit. 

Doug:  Obviously, working hands-on with printers is out of the question for students these days.  Are you able to do any making or designing online anyway?

Heather: While at home, students are encouraged to continue learning how to use the online design program, Tinkercad. This is the same 3D design platform they were taught in my class. 

Doug:  So, you’re at home hard at work but you realize that there was some potential assistance to healthcare workers sitting in your classroom at school.  How did you start thinking about that?

Heather: During the March Break, I read a post on social media put out by InkSmith. They are a small company out of Kitchener that works with school boards to bring 3D design technology into the classroom. They were contacted by a local doctor asking if they could make face shields to protect health care workers. InkSmith organized a community effort where anyone with a 3D printer could print off the top and bottom visors for the face shields, and InkSmith assembled them into shields. The demand for the shields skyrocketed. InkSmith turned to other companies to help, and received Health Canada approval for their shield, the Canadian Shield. They continued however, to ask the community to print the visors to be used in shields for workers in need of a donated shield. This is the Community Shield. Any organization who is an essential service can apply for these shields. 

Doug:  With some support, you were able to go into the school and bring a printer home.  What sort of permissions were required to make this happen?

Heather: I sent a copy of the InkSmith initiative to my principal, Lorrie Goos, who was one hundred percent supportive. She took the lead, contacting the board.

Doug:  Healthcare workers have to wear masks for an entire shift these days.  Are shifts at your hospital, Alexandra Marine & General Hospital, 8 or 12 hour?

Heather: I’m not sure how long the shifts are at Alexandra Marine. I do have several friends who work at various hospitals in London and Strathroy, and the shortage of PPE available to them is alarming. Hours in a mask is aggravating.

Doug:  While I don’t wear a mask for that long, I do wear glasses and I know the stress behind the ear that comes with that.  That was your inspiration for a 3D printed solution.

Heather: As mentioned, I was initially thinking about the face shield project, but I came across another article on the need for ear guards for front line workers. The file was fairly easy to print and the local demand has been high, so that’s the project we’ve focused on for now.  

Can you tell us about the design?

Heather: The design is posted on Thingiverse at Surgical Mask Strap Remix.

Doug:  So, they’re adjustable to relieve the stress for the wearer.  Anyone who has ever been to the dentist or had an operation knows that one of the traditional placements is around the ear.  This design gets around that.

How long does it take to print a single Ear Guard?

Heather: The guard takes about 20 minutes to print, and I normally print 3 at a time. 

Doug:  I’m told by my nurse wife that these would be so appreciated.  Were they appreciated by all at AMGH? I understand that your distribution goes beyond the hospital into the community.

Heather: The ear guards have been delivered to several hospitals, a grocery store, hospice, and yes, they are appreciated. 

Doug:  To date, how many have you been able to deliver?  How do you know who needs them?

Heather: As of today, I’ve printed about 150. While I’ve been printing, Lorrie Goos has been getting the word out. Dr. Gill from the Maitland Valley Medical Clinic, also a planning and response lead, asked for 100 for the clinic, long term care homes, retirement centres. The list is growing.

Doug:  Do you have a goal for the number that you want to produce at the end of all this?  Do you have enough raw materials or are you ordering it on the fly?

Heather: My goal is to continue to print until the need is met. I have enough filament to print 1800. My main concern is hoping the printer holds out. It is not an industrial grade 3D printer; it was meant for educational use. It needs a new build plate, which comes from New York City, so I’m hopeful this build plate holds out for the 3 weeks it will take the new one to arrive. Companies in Canada that supply parts for this type of printer are sold out of parts and filament.  I also need rubbing alcohol to clean the build plate, but I can’t buy it anywhere. Just like hand sanitizer, it’s sold out.

Doug:  Heather, this is such a wonderful gesture on your part and I’m so impressed with your initiative.  Please accept my sincerest praise for what you’re doing.

I will admit publicly here; I was more than a little emotional editing and putting this post into place. This is just so wonderful.

Stay safe.

Heather: Thank-you for helping spread the word. I’m sure the need is far wider than our local community. 

You can follow Heather on Twitter at: @hdurnin

These photos are from Sunday. It was really sad to drive into Huron Hospice.

All pictures are courtesy of Heather.

3 thoughts on “10 questions for Heather Durnin

  1. Doug, thanks so much for highlighting this. It’s such a terrific example of ways that the community can come together to help. Way to go, Heather! Another teacher, Melissa Bogaert, from TVDSB, shared on our biweekly #eduknitnight Google Meet that she was crocheting a similar strap to sew buttons onto. Serves the same purpose. She puts hers in a box on her porch and gets the word out that anyone who needs one can pick one up.

    Here’s a pattern, if people want to make and share:


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