UW-Platteville student creates ear guards for Wisconsin hospitals

After hearing about the growing shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers, University of Wisconsin-Platteville senior Sam Smith decided he needed to help those battling the COVID-19 crisis. Smith, a computer science major from Kaukauna, Wisconsin, started producing ear guards with his 3D printer. He can create five guards every two hours.

“I have been able to produce around 250 ear guards for multiple medical facilities and community programs around the state,” Smith said. “As long as people continue to reach out, I’ll keep the printer running.”

The purpose of ear guards is to help stop the elastic bands from medical masks from resting on a person’s ears. For some health care professionals, the elastic bands can form rashes and inflammation. Smith’s first-drop off was to the Appleton Medical Center in the Fox Valley.

“The team on the eighth floor of the Appleton Medical Center sent me a lovely thank you card in the mail,” he said. “The community response has been amazing. I just wish I could do more.”

Not only is Smith donating to area hospitals, he also mailed a group of ear guards to Kelly Jo Hadfield, the UW-Platteville student center coordinator, who has been making free masks for people on campus and in the Platteville community. “It became clear the ear guards would work great with the work she is doing,” Smith said. “I printed about 20 of the guards and shipped them back to Platteville.”

Smith is buying all of the materials for the ear guards himself. “It is just the right thing to do,” he said, adding that he wanted to give back in some way

“Our medical professionals are putting their lives at risk to protect us. The least we can do is help support them. My only request is that people pay it forward to others in their community,” he said. “We are living through a historical moment. A lot of people are struggling. If we continue to support those around us, our community grows stronger in the fight against the virus.”