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Teenager brings comfort to mask wearing


August 28, 2020

While some 14-year-olds keep busy playing video games or watching movies during a pandemic quarantine, Cloquet's Ryan Huls has taken up a more productive hobby. In the midst of the global pandemic, Huls did his part using a 3-D printer to make "ear savers" and ventilator splitters.

Ear savers are a device placed on the head that holds the mask straps instead of hooking behind the ears, which can irritate after extended mask use. The flat plastic connector rests on the back of a person's head and has multiple hooks or sizes to adjust for head size.

"I make four at a time and it takes about 20 minutes," Ryan said. He has added a message on them, "Together Strong."

"We have some friends who work in health care here in Cloquet and they said this is something useful and is needed," Ryan's dad, Sean, said. Raiter Clinic's Dr. Jessica Woodward said she really appreciated the devices because wearing a mask and glasses full time - and having both rest behind her ears - is uncomfortable.

Huls has printed hundreds of the devices for health care workers. Now he's working on a supply for school staff and others. He changed the color from green to purple and the message says "Cloquet Jacks."

Huls started printing ventilator splitters after seeing a local news story about Proctor High School students using 3-D printing equipment and sending printed ventilator splitters for frontline emergency use.

The device splits the airflow two ways from a single ventilator, allowing twice as many people on ventilators.

The splits are made for the online entity Project CURE, which sends needed equipment to health care facilities all over the world.

"The website had all the design files and a shipping address of where they were needed," Huls said.

The freshman at Cloquet High School plans to continue his 3-D printing projects through the fall.


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