Article was originally posted by Bobbie Hayse in the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer April 30, 2020
Michelle Wathen considers Owensboro Innovation Academy senior Samuel Ling’s face mask straps an “ear favorite.”
Wathen, a triage nurse at the Women’s Pavilion, was given the plastic straps by the Owensboro teen. She has known the 18-year-old all of his life, and watched him grow up, so when he offered her the straps he was 3-D printing at home, she was more than happy to take them.
The strap is used to alleviate pressure from mask elastic that is designed to touch the wearer’s ear. The elastic earpieces attach to the mask at the back of the wearer’s head.
After many hours of work with a mask on, the ear straps can put a toll on the ears, Wathen said, which is why these straps are so helpful.
“I think it’s awesome that he is doing this, and that he gave me some to give to some of our employees at the Women’s Pavilion,” Wathen said. “They are very useful, especially because they can accommodate two masks, which is what we have been wearing.”
Wathen said the fact that she wears glasses can also make long hours in a face mask painful. The plastic straps also help with that as well.
“These masks are an ear’s favorite,” she said. “God blessed us with people like Sam who are helping during this time.”
Ling, who has a 3-D printer in his home, has created about 100 masks that he has sent to various healthcare professionals locally as well an in Ohio, Illinois and California. He has only sent them to individuals he knows personally, as he understands the complications that can come from sharing items.
“This isn’t my original idea,” Ling said, adding that his mother found out their neighbor’s daughter, Wathen, was struggling with wearing face masks for hours at a time.
Ling learned how to use a 3-D printer at school, as the OIA has several of them. He got his first printer by refurbishing a broken one, but later upgraded. He has been printing about a year, and in his personal time, he enjoys printing parts for his electronic airplane models that he flies.
“I like to 3-D print things that have a purpose,” he said. “I don’t just 3-D print random objects. That’s why I thought this would be a good thing to do.”
He said everyone is scared during this time, but if community members can chip in it makes dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic a lot easier.
“We’ll get through this,” he said.
After graduation this year, Ling plans to attend Owensboro Community & Technical College where he will study computerized manufacturing machining. He also hopes to obtain his commercial pilot’s license and fly planes “as a side job,” he said.