Catholic students use new tech to fight COVID-19

Published: Apr. 16, 2020 at 3:31 PM EDT
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Even though school isn't in session, a group of Catholic High School's students are doing what they can to both learn and help healthcare workers.

Established in 1989, the Knoxville Catholic High School's Robotichauns are a group of inspired and motivated students with a desire to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills.

The Robotichauns wanted to help during the crisis in some manner. They discovered through friends in the medical profession an issue with the respirator masks. Wearing them all day was causing discomfort to the ears and skin of healthcare workers.

Senior Tony Spezia came up with the idea to use 3D printing to develop a new strap which keeps the tension on the mask without the mask straps or bands having to rest on the ears. This helps provide extra comfort because the mask straps are not resting on the ears and constantly pulling at them.

Spezia found an approved, open source design with the help of team mentor Doug Parris. He did a test batch that were delivered to a doctor at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and to the University of Tennessee's Cancer Institute. He also added some slight branding with ‘2393’ (their robotics team number) and ‘KCHS’ to the design so when people use them they can see that Knoxville Catholic and the Robotichauns are supporting them in their fight against the virus.

So far, they have produced over 150 green and gold comfort straps. They have become so popular that word has gotten around. Blount Memorial Hospital has reached out asking for an allotment.

If there are medical professionals or first responders that would like to receive these facemask tensioners, please contact the Knoxville Catholic Robotichauns at