Local students use latest technology to print free face masks

Three Pearland students are banding together to create face masks for those at high risk of contracting COVID-19. They call themselves the three “masketeers.”

The high school junior, freshman, and middle-schooler are creating much-needed face masks after hearing about the shortage.

“My mother, she's a pediatrician,” says Amar Sehgal, a Dawson High School junior. “She was talking to some of her friends about the possibility in the future of running out of masks and PPE’s." 

The two high schoolers were presenting projects at this year's Texas Science & Engineering Fair, but the in-person competition was canceled.

The trio of two brothers and a family friend then decided to find another use for their robotics and 3D printing experience. They spent two weeks creating and testing designs for masks based on the N95 model currently in high demand.

“We have the mask here and the mask cap and the filter right here,” says Shadow Creek High School freshman Karthik Bhagavatula, showing off the computer software used to design the masks.

“The printer heats up to 200° and it melts the plastic,” adds Praneel Bhagavatula, a Nolan Ryan Junior High School student. “One mask takes around three hours to print, but it’s very efficient.”

The group runs three separate 3D printers to build the masks that can be cleaned and come with disposable filters that are cheaper and quicker to make than the full model.  

MORE: Ben Taub Hospital gets shipment of 50,000 masks from Houston start-up

“Inside of it is a filter which can be replaced every 8 to 12 hours,” explains Sehgal.

The covers aren't certified for medical use, but they are helping those at high risk of catching COVID-19.

“It's given me the security to go out real quick, go to the store, get a few things and get back to the house without possibly contracting this virus," says Bobby Dantin, an immunodeficiency patient who received one of the masks.

People who have gotten the free masks are also donating money to build new ones.

The students hope to share their designs with companies and universities who can pump out more.

“Right now, it’s more urgent that we get these masks to the people who need it rather than wait on licensing,” says Sehgal.

For now, the three “masketeers” are working around the clock to make as many masks as they can, “all for one and one for all” in a fight to stop the spread of a deadly virus.