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A face shield warrior: East Dubuque’s Nathan Tyler is printing face shields for teachers


EAST DUBUQUE–Nathan Tyler, East Dubuque School District’s director of safety and security, received a surprise gift from his brother-in-law in March, a 3-D printer. During the COVID lockdown, Tyler has been busy learning the tricks of the trade and has been printing a variety of different items.

“It has been so nice,” said Tyler. “You can make anything you want.”

It took Tyler three days to piece together the parts to get the printer ready to go.

“When given a gift, you have to find a way to give back,” said Tyler.


Printing face shields

Tyler embarked on figuring out how to print face shields that could be used by staff and faculty members in East Dubuque.

“We are still trying to figure out what we are going to do or what will be expected when we return to school,” said Tyler. “I looked online to find a template for a face shield. Now, we don’t know exactly what the direction is by the state upon reopening. We are preparing for anything and everything.”

The idea behind face shields is to take universal precautions in case an individual tests positive in the school or to find a way to teach while masked.

The idea behind the face shields also came from his daughter who has hearing loss in one of her ears.

“What do you do with students who have been trained to read lips?” asked Tyler. “This is one possible solution.”

Tyler’s wife works in the face shield so he has also been busy printing face shields for her workplace.

In 12 hours, Tyler can print two face masks which he attaches to purchased plastic face guards.

Tyler uses a flexible plastic for his face shields to make them easy to wear.

He also puts elastic bands on his face shields to make them accessible for anyone who wants to wear one.

Tyler’s daughter at Hempstead High School in Dubuque is participating in an upcoming play and they, too, will be wearing Tyler’s face shields.


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Minimal cost

Tyler has been busy with the project. He currently has 20 face shields that are ready to go for the upcoming school year and he’s not finished.

“Of course I have to print them in East Dubuque colors,” said Tyler.

Tyler discussed his face mask production at a recent school board meeting and since then he has received a great response from coworkers.

“I was thinking about the kitchen staff and giving these to those staff members,” said Tyler. “They love that idea.”

Another option for the 3-D printer is creating face masks with replaceable filters.

The cost for the items that he puts into printing the face shields is minimal compared to how much they are being sold for on the open market.

“The plastic that I have been using has been a more flexible plastic, but I have also used harder plastic for other objects that I create,” said Tyler.

Tyler said watching the printer do its work has been mesmerizing and he finds himself watching the printing process to see how his creations become reality.

Tyler has been keeping up with the maintenance of his printer and all the parts on his model are replaceable. Along with printing shields, Tyler also prints items for his children to pique their interests such as pirate ships.


A future dream

Through the work he has put into the 3-D printer Tyler has been thinking about the endless possibilities area school districts could have if districts purchase 3-D printers and allow students to explore.

“If there is a need for it, I can bring it in,” said Tyler. “If we could have a donor give us one or two of these, it would be incredible for the students.”

Tyler was brainstorming many ways in which a 3-D printer could be used by schools from shop classes creating smaller scale engines to small homes.

Tyler also discussed how a 3-D printer could be utilized by the criminal justice class that he teaches in creating crime scene templates.

“The opportunities are endless,” said Tyler.

Tyler thinks having the opportunity to use 3-D printers in the classroom would be a great tool. Tyler continues to work on ways to ensure the safety of the district and face shield production one way to be safe from COVID-19.