Giving Back to Community


Challenging times often present opportunities for people to give back to their community. It can also be difficult for people that want to help, to know where to start. That same situation held true for the staff at Southern Tech.

While brainstorming on Zoom, SouthernTech staff was discussing ways that they could help during the COVID-19 pandemic.  They knew this school year would be completed online, so they donated the bulk of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) from their healthcare programs to the local hospital, nursing homes, and veterans’ center, but they wanted to do more.  

Southern Tech staff also talked about ways to use the 3D printers in their manufacturing programs to print more masks and other PPE, but kept running into design issues and had trouble procuring N95 filters.  Some items they wanted to print and donate would take a lot of time to manufacture, while other items required pieces that they didn’t have on hand.

“It was frustrating to talk about all of the possibilities and we just kept running into complications. We knew we could do more, but the right idea wasn’t there yet.,” said Southern Tech Superintendent, Dr. David Powell.

Then the right opportunity presented itself. When Ardmore’s Mercy hospital contacted Southern Tech last week about making medical mask extenders, so the mask could be hooked behind the head rather than around the ears, Dr. Powell was all in.

Dr. Powell contacted the instructors in the engineering building and AnthonyBilyeu, CAD Instructor, and Stephen Hadwin, 3D-CNC Machining Instructor, accepted the challenge.  Powell emailed a photo of what the hospital was looking for.  Hadwin found a file similar to the photo Dr. Powell sent and refined the design so it would be printable.   Bilyeu went to work setting up the printers.  

After the first day of printing,Bilyeu had 103 medical mask extenders printed and ready to go.  The masks were then delivered to the staff at Mercy Hospital.  To date,SouthernTech has printed and provided approximately 250 medical mask extenders to the hospital.

Bilyeu said, “I had about 12, 3D printers going at the same time and each printer could print up to 10 straps, and the larger printer created about 25 at a time.  The PLA (Polylactic Acid) we usedis a common material for 3D printing and worked great because it’s very flexible.”  Bilyeu also said, he was happy to do this project and if the hospital needs more, he would be glad to provide them.

Southern Tech is a local career and technical education school that trains students for high skill, high wage, high demand careers. They offer over 20 different programs in the areas of healthcare, manufacturing, engineering, and construction. Southern Tech is part of the Oklahoma CareerTech system and serves over 1,000 fulltime students, and thousands of part time students for industry specific training. For more information about the programs offered, visit their website at