While residents of Adelphoi’s Loyalhanna House in Latrobe are practicing social distancing, it hasn’t dampened their spirits or their productivity.

For the past week, youth have been spending their free time using Adelphoi’s 3D printers to make mask buckles for front-line employees who are assisting in the Coronavirus epidemic. Mask buckles are adjustable plastic pieces that fit onto surgical and face masks, providing much needed relief from the constant pull and pain of the elastic on the mask wearer’s ears and cartilage.

Adelphoi students learned the skills to develop the mask buckles as part of the Career Exploration Maker Space and Mobile Lab on Adelphoi’s main campus in Latrobe. The Career Exploration Maker Space & Mobile Lab consists of stations designed to provide introductory instruction in high-demand vocational areas.  Besides 3D printing, the program includes stations in Residential Wiring, Pipe Cutting/Fitting, Refrigeration, Mechanisms, Virtual Welding, AC/DC Circuitry, Programmable Logic Controllers, Auto-Brake Trainer, Laser Engraving, Programmable Logic Controls and HVAC.

Youth are placed at Adelphoi’s residential programs, including Loyalhanna House, through Juvenile Probation and child welfare referrals. Adelphoi provides both therapeutic services and educational programming to students in a structured home environment. Students participate in the Career Lab at the end of their school day at Adelphoi’s Charter School.

“Making the mask buckles here is teaching me and the other kids how to help others in the community and letting us use the 3D printers and materials for something we haven’t used them for before,” said Gage, an Adelphoi resident and Career Readiness student.

Students are donating the mask buckles to local hospitals and adult care facilities including Brookdale Latrobe, Barnes Place, Loyalhanna Care Center, and both Excela Latrobe and Westmoreland Hospitals.

Adelphoi’s Career Exploration Maker Space and Mobile Lab helps to prepare students for the world of work and allows them to achieve their highest potential by offering career exploration in various trades and instruction in employability skills. Through the development of academic, vocational and soft skills, Adelphoi students prepare to re-enter their communities with increased self-esteem and a better knowledge of their own abilities and aptitudes.

Supervisor of Career Readiness Programs Kerry Ozmelek said “Having the students utilize the 3D printers to make the mask buckles shows them how what they have learned in our Career Readiness classes can be applied to real-world problems.  I have noticed that the students have been developing their problem-solving skills while using the printers – tweaking the design, making multi-colored buckles and trouble-shooting the printers.  I am hopeful that in the future the technology will foster creativity by giving the students the opportunity to become creators, designers and inventors.”