GREEN When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Green community hit the ground running.

In his report to Green City Council in late April, Mayor Gerard Neugebauer commended city employees and residents alike for continued social distancing while undertaking efforts from food drives and checking on elderly residents, to the volunteer “mask army” that has knitted hundreds of face coverings.

As quarantine projects go, few endeavors have been more ambitious endeavors than that of Green residents and Central Catholic High School students, Brock Stropki and Blake Abbott.

Stropki, 17, recently manufactured and donated 40 face shields and elastic headbands – created using his 3D printer and materials he purchased himself – to Green Fire Division. Along the way, he and Abbott also designed an “ear-relief clip” that fits onto the back of the face shields to protects the wearer’s ears.

“The masks dig into their ears and create blisters,” Stropki said of the common design flaw of most face shields used by both medical staff and first responders.

The students donated the mask clips to Aultman Hospital.

Taking the initiative

Stropki said he saw the need for such products “begin to pop up” on social media and felt he could use 3D printing technology to create a fix.

“I started in 2016,” Stropki said of the 3D printing hobby that has turned into a burgeoning operation, with face shields and ear-relief clips being donated to numerous local first responders, hospitals, and medical providers since the project began.

“I live in Green, so I called the firehouse and they were grateful for them,” Stropki said.

Stropki’s parents, Jason and Kelly, are proud of their son’s ingenuity and drive, but were not entirely surprised by it.

“The kid is a builder, he doesn’t watch TV or anything,” Jason Stropki said, pointing to some of Brock’s other projects, such as the creation of his own CAD software and building a multi-rotor drone. “I think it speaks for itself – we are very proud of him.”

Not so incidentally, Brock is also taking flight lessons and plans to follow his father’s footsteps and become an airline pilot.

In the meantime, with personal protective gear still at a premium as the COVID-19 crisis continues, Stropki and Abbott’s donations continue fill an essential need.

“I think the number is up to 130 now,” Stropki said.