By Miriam Kerins
On a sunny Easter weekend, as most Rossies prepare to enjoy the good weather, (while respectfully adhering to social distancing guidelines), technology teacher and Kilteevan native Garrett Spellman is figuring out how to help others.
Armed with his ‘tech tools,’ this self-effacing, yet hugely inspirational gentleman, who teaches students at the Convent of Mercy in Roscommon, is selflessly using his skills to help meet a shortage of face-shields for those who are working on the frontline during this Covid-19 pandemic.
Securing the support and backing of his School Principal Miriam Hunt, and fellow teachers and colleagues, Garrett is working around the clock to avail of the convent’s recently renovated technology room, (rebranded as a state-of-the-art-design lab), to manufacture and distribute vital life-saving personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We only opened the lab in February and a lot of work has gone into it. It’s a huge initiative for this all-girls’ school to have entered into, and they’ve created a wonderful environment that is both welcoming and educational for the students,” says Garrett.
Taking inspiration from fellow technology teachers, who issued a call-to-action to those in possession of a 3D printer, and an email thread in which he was involved, Garrett set his plan in motion.
“A fellow technology teacher was looking for other teachers to contribute filament for a 3D printer or for those with 3D printers, and I decided to get involved,” says Garrett. However, there was a drawback, as Garrett explains: “The drawings they sent me took three hours to make a face shield”. Seeing this as an obstacle, and using his unique skills and creative mind, following a lot of research Garrett discovered a way to produce this vital equipment in half the time. But this resilient Rossie didn’t stop there.
“I have a laser cutter which is really fast for cutting material and I found a University in Atlanta (USA), who were doing the same thing and they gave me the drawings and now I can cut out these masks in one and a half to two minutes. My friend has a laser cutter, I got in touch, we made a prototype and have manufactured about 500 already. It’s now become like a domino effect and we’ve sent it out to a load of people. My mate in Tipperary has created 1,300 face shields and we can produce about a hundred a day”.
Although he has spearheaded this whole project, Garrett is extremely humble and wants to point out he is simply trying to help those working at the coalface. Modestly shunning praise and refusing to take all credit due to him, Garrett wants to thank everyone who has helped him in his quest.
“I want to thank Fergal Cormican, Cormican Office Supplies, who has donated front visors, and Fintan Kilroe of XLNT Signs for helping us out. It has been a wonderful community effort. I want to thank Deputy Principal Sinead Tiernan who has helped me source visors and all the school staff who got in touch offering help and donations. The response has been phenomenal,” says a very grateful Garrett.
Roscommon Hospital, along with hospitals and frontline personnel across Ireland, are currently overwhelmed by not just the spread of coronavirus, but by the severity of it, and Garrett’s public-spirited initiative is much appreciated by this community-focused newspaper and its readers. Indeed, these crucial pieces of equipment, made right here in a local Roscommon school, have also been deployed to the UK!
“We have the facilities and when Miriam (Hunt) said by all means use the school to make them, we ran with it,” said Garrett.
So, this weekend, as many of us fear the world is going to pieces, and the gloom of ‘lockdown’ hangs over us, the generosity of one man, supported by his Convent of Mercy friends and colleagues – along with the local community – stands out. Garrett Spellman’s creativity, generosity and innovation will not just serve to help keep our frontline heroes safe; it will also help to kick this virus where it hurts! We salute you Mr. Spellman!
If readers wish to donate, or can offer help to Garrett’s cause, please email him at email@example.com or at the school’s design lab Instagram account on designlab_ros, or on Twitter on @desingmakeit.