For his Bar Mitzvah project, Glenridge Middle School rising seventh-grader Mason Moses is 3D-printing and collecting ear savers and other protective gear to help with the COVID-19 pandemic.
With his 13th birthday just a few months away, Glenridge Middle rising seventh-grader Mason Moses has been preparing for his bar mitzvah.
For the Jewish coming-of-age ritual for boys, many synagogues require a bar mitzvah student to do a social-action project, often known as a “mitzvah project,” as part of their preparations.
For tech-savvy Mason, the idea for his mitzvah project came to him during the coronavirus pandemic. He received a 3D printer for Hanukkah in 2018, and he decided to use it to make 3D-printed personal protective equipment for those who need it — specifically ear savers.
“I wanted to do something with my 3D printer, because it’s really fun to use and stuff, and at first I tried to print these masks,” Mason says. “The masks were a big problem, because it took like six hours to print, and after five-and-a-half hours, they’ll fall over, and then you don’t have a mask. … A week after I started really printing them and trying to get them to work really well, then there were a lot of articles that say they give a false sense of security and they’re not really actually safe.”
Weighing the logistic difficulties of 3D-printed face masks with the articles he read, Mason decided to shift his attention. He learned about face shields, which he wanted to do but couldn’t — he didn’t have any transparency sheets nor immediate access to them.
That is when he found the concept of ear savers — pieces of plastic or fabric with latches or hooks. They make mask sizing more flexible and remove pressure and friction from the ears.
“I was with one of my friends who lives in the neighborhood, and his dad works at one of the hospitals and he does radiology,” Mason says. “His dad was saying that his ears were getting really raw at the end of the work day, because they have to wear (masks) all day now and not just when they’re seeing patients.”
But what he discovered after looking at some of the ear-saver designs available online was that many were either too thin or had latches that didn’t work well. He created his own design based on them, but with tweaks.
“I was looking at a bunch of designs people already made … and I decided none of them were really good, because some of the masks wouldn’t stay on the ear savers themselves,” Mason says. “I had to make something that was different, and some of the designs that I’ve given away are different from the ones I make.”
In addition to printing the ear savers, Mason also is hosting a donation drive for 3D-printed face shields and ear savers. He and his family can collect them from donors, and they will be given to doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.
Alternatively, he also is looking to partner with anyone who has a 3D printer who can help him print more ear savers. They will receive Mason’s design file and can bring the ear savers to him to donate. They also can earmark the finished products as part of Mason’s drive and donate them on their own.
Mason’s former STEM teacher at Baldwin Park Elementary, Jessica Krell, has been one of those donors. She is printing a design slightly different from Mason’s — they even are adorned with a paw print on the back, a nod to the school’s bobcat mascot.
His ear savers take about 45 minutes apiece to print, and he has printed and collected more than 300 ear savers so far. He’s donated them to places such as Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, Orlando Regional Medical Center, AdventHealth, GuideWell Emergency Doctors and more. Other recipients include pediatricians, periodontists, orthodontists and podiatrists.
He gets some help from his mom, Wendi Moses, who is using social media to spread the word and find those in need of the ear savers. And it’s not just health care professionals in need, either.
“Someone we knew has to wear oxygen all the time,” Wendi Moses says. “She said that she’s terrified to go out, because she wears glasses and the oxygen goes behind her ears, so she doesn’t have space for a mask. She was like, ‘Can you please send me a handful?’ He, of course, wanted to, so now she’s able to go to her doctor’s appointments and have a mask on.”
Wendi Moses said Mason received an abundance of orders, and it was tough for a while to keep up with requests.
“He has been doing it all day long from the second he gets up until he goes to bed,” Wendi Moses says. “He was so determined and continued to try and never give up. ... He helps me get mailing envelopes ready and he writes a note, and any of the Ziploc bags that we deliver, he counts them up and writes who it’s for and puts ‘Mason’s Drive.’ (For) ones that are close enough, he’ll bike to the house to deliver it. Some are farther, so I have to drive him, but he’s been active in all of that.
“He said to me, ‘I just never knew what a difference I could make,’” she says. “He’s had doctors write him thank-you letters or send him videos thanking him, so that’s been cool. A couple of our friends were able to get them into the ER department of the hospital so the people on the front lines can get them.”