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Why Little Things are Big Things, Especially During COVID-19

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Teacher creates face shield on 3-D printer

When Jared Pirkl sent his 6th grade class off for spring break, he never imagined he wouldn’t see them again this school year. 

“I had good intentions of using my spring break to develop plans for using of our 3-D printer in the classroom,” Pirkl says. “Little did I know when I brought the 3-D Printer home, that I would be using it for an entirely different purpose.”

As COVID-19 changed how the school year would end, it too changed how Pirkl planned to use his 3-D printer.

“While listening to the story line of the pandemic unraveled, I quickly learned health care necessities such as PPE (personal protective equipment) was becoming a big part of that story. Knowing what a 3-D printer could do, I started to research access points to help support our health care providers,” Pirkl says.

It didn’t take Pirkl long to figure out how to print face shields and make plans to donate them to UnityPoint Health.


“I told my students via our virtual meetings, that our printer is getting used, and helping support our community. It was fun to see their smiles when I shared that our little classroom was helping our health care providers during this pandemic. As I tell them often, "little things are big things," and hopefully our little impact can make a big impact for someone else,” he says.

Pirkl says it takes between three and five hours to make each face shield. If he stays on top of it, he can get more than three of them done in a full day. That includes getting up early in the morning to get it going and making sure it is still running when he goes to bed at night. 

“As an educator and a parent of four boys, I believe that much like being in education, being in health care is a calling to serve others, to support your community. I felt if there was a way for our house to help our health care providers during this situation, we would. I ultimately just want to be of help and to serve others in whatever capacity I can,” Pirkl says.

He donates the face shields to UnityPoint Health – Waterloo because of an experience he had with caregivers there four years ago. One of his twins, who is now 6 years old, came down with RSV on New Year’s Eve. 

“Little did we know at the time that over the next nine days, we would spend the majority of our time inside the walls of Allen Hospital, watching nurses, doctors and health care works battle to support, answer questions and provide comfort to our son through his battle. That experience had many stressful moments for us as parents, uncertainty and restless days. During each interaction, we were met with a smile, a calm demeanor and a servant mindset that calmed our anxieties as we watched our son hooked up to machines to help him breathe, cope and work through the process of fighting the battle he was in,” he says.

Pirkl says his family is grateful to those caregivers and all caregivers who are now helping other families during this pandemic.

“If there is a way to help, let's make it happen. My family will continue to do what little work we are doing behind the scenes to support the caregivers, our heroes, in the world,” he says.
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