LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 News) – Utah State University Extension 4-H youth have stepped up to help protect health care workers in rural Utah areas in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the coordination efforts of USU’s Utah Assistive Technology Program, over than 900 face shields have been produced and donated to local health care workers. But an additional 550 masks are still needed.

David Francis, USU Extension youth program director, became aware of the crucial need to protect health care workers through USU communications, and knew the project would be a perfect fit for youth involved in 4-H STEM programs. He sent a request to 4-H youth and leaders.

Related: Utah State and Weber State make face shields for essential workers

Josh and Kaleb Van Wagoner, along with their Salt Lake area 4-H family and neighborhood club, GForce, stepped forward to help. In March when school let out due to COVID-19, they started the 3D printing process to produce face shields. Each shield takes approximately 2 hours to print and requires changing programs three times for each shield. The boys started cutting shields with a laser cutter in addition to the 3D printers, which greatly increases the number of masks that can be produced. So far, they have printed about 200 shields, and they will keep printing as long as there is a need. “It makes me feel good to help people,” Kaleb said.

According to Francis, the USU Extension 4-H programs were pioneers in the Maker Movement.

“This early adoption led to a variety of programs that used the tools and expertise necessary for projects like 3D printing,” he said. “When you couple that with the values found in the 4-H pledge, ‘I pledge my hands to larger service,’ it helps instill in our youth the attitude and willingness to serve the community. We’re very proud of these youth for using their skills and time to help our healthcare workers.”

Related: State of Utah receives thousands of PPE donations from Liaoning, China

Josh Van Wagoner says ” this is a great way to give back to the community.”

4-H.org reports 55 million school children have been impacted by school closures and are in need of help, especially the 7 million who do not have Internet access in the United States.

Francis said a fund was created to support youth from all communities, with or without Internet access. The FOURWARD Fund’s purpose is to ensure that all kids have access to necessary resources and meaningful learning opportunities during the pandemic.

Have questions about coronavirus?

Visit https://4-h.org/ways-to-give/fourward/ for information and to donate.

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