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Ferris Student Turns Makerspace Possibilities into Realities During COVID-19

Savannah TorreySavannah Torrey

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a call to action – a call Ferris State University student Savannah Torrey was excited to answer.

Through Ferris’ COVID-19 Community Response Team, faculty, staff and students have been mobilized in activist roles to help make a difference in Michigan communities. One major effort to come out of the team’s work was 3-D printing of headbands for face shields to help protect frontline healthcare workers. This is part of what Ferris Laboratory Facilities Coordinator Brian Pacholka, from the College of Engineering Technology, dubbed “Operation Face Shields.”

Thanks to the Ferris Makerspace, skill and motivation, Torrey has printed hundreds of face shield headbands. The Munith, Michigan native estimated in early May 2020 that she had created about 200 of the headbands through the Ferris Makerspace, which she described as “a place where students from any program can come to create. The Makerspace provides the tools and technology so students can 3D Scan, prototype, bend wire, 3D print, sew, mend shoes, stitch leather, and bring their ideas to life.”

The Secondary Mathematics Education major with a minor in Speech Communication Teaching is an active, hands-on learner. Said Torrey, “I am an employee at the Makerspace and work in tandem with my coworkers and Luke Hedman, Ferris’ assistant professor of Product Design Engineering Technology to continually improve the Makerspace and the services we provide to students.”

In Fall 2019, Torrey attended one of Ferris’ on-campus career fairs and connected with William Koepf, program coordinator and an associate professor of Product Design Engineering Technology. A few weeks later, she had a position working in the Ferris Makerspace. Torrey has been part of printing that has made the headbands and face shields possible for organizations such as Metron and Big Rapids Family Eyecare, in Big Rapids, and Cherry Health, in Grand Rapids.

It doesn’t end there, “I have personally printed models and sent packages to students in Lakeview, Big Rapids, Elk Rapids and Walloon Lake.”

Torrey, who has remained active since Ferris campuses largely shut down in March due to COVID-19, volunteers at Angels of Action, in Big Rapids, to help get food to local schoolchildren. Her continued work has been made possible due in part to being a recipient of monies from Ferris’ Student Hardship Fund, made possible through generous donations, which has helped her to pay her May rent. The Student Hardship Fund dollars helped compensate for a reduction in income from her work tutoring and working in the 3-D printing lab.

“I want to thank all who have donated to help people like me who are being affected by the government shutdown,” said Torrey, who plans to graduate in May 2021. “Being involved in this project is great. I feel like I can help out and do a small part to help. I would love to see this project continue to help people, especially healthcare workers who are risking their lives.”