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Grace College Engineering Students 3D Print Ear Guards for Frontline Workers

Grace College engineering students Erin Lawhon and Abbott Joy are 3D printing ear guards to donate to local organizations on the front lines of COVID-19. The ear guards help alleviate rubbing and headaches caused by face masks. The Grace College Department of Engineering is funding the project.

Lawhon, a senior at Grace from Mt. Vernon, Ohio, came up with the idea when her roommate sent her an article about a boy scout printing ear guards in Canada. “I immediately had the idea that Grace should use their 3D printers to get involved in the effort,” said Lawhon. “But then I thought, I’m in Ohio. I can’t do anything to help. When I remembered that Abbott was still in Winona Lake, I knew that he would spearhead the initiative,” she said.

Lawhon was right. Juinor engineering student Abbott Joy, of Acton, Maine, was in full support of the idea. “Given the number of people we can help and the amount of time this takes, there’s no justifiable reason not to help!” Joy said. The pair contacted the chair of the engineering program at Grace, Dr. Fred Wentorf, and got the operation in order.

Now, a week into the project, Joy checks on the printers three to four times a day for maximum yield. Joy has printed 109 ear guards to date. “Sixty-three of the guards have already been donated to Fellowship Missions, a nonprofit in Warsaw that helps homeless individuals and families, and I sent three of them to my sister who is a CNA in Maine,” said Joy.

The ear guards at Fellowship Missions are already making a difference. “I want to thank the Grace engineering team for thinking of us during this time. Our residents and staff have been required to wear masks for the past five weeks. Receiving the ear guards was a big relief for those who couldn’t find a mask that fits well. Having the ear guards has cut our headache complaints almost to zero,” said Eric Lane, executive director of Fellowship Missions.

The students’ self-initiated project mirrors what their course instruction is all about. “Our engineering program really pushes the motto ‘engineered to serve.’ This means we serve the community in any way we can. This project is a great example of how we are using the talents and resources to do just that!” said Lawhon.

Lawhon and Joy produce around 200 ear guards per week. They are in search of additional organizations to give donations. If you know of an organization in the Winona Lake/Warsaw community that needs ear guards, contact Erin Lawhon at

Tagged With: Department of Engineering, Pandemic, School of Arts & Sciences