A Boy Scout from Maple Ridge, British Columbia is getting world-wide attention for using his 3D printer to create "ear gears" for surgical masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heather Roney says her 12-year-old son, Quinn Callander, has created several hundred of them from home so far and donated them to health-care workers around the world.
The device, which goes behind the head and is also called an ear guard, has hooks that attach to the straps of a mask and help take the pressure off the backs of the ears.
"It's so simple, but it's incredibly effective," Roney, a hearing instrument practitioner, said in a phone interview.
"We've heard from thousands of people who say, 'This is the difference between working your 12-hour shift comfortably and being in constant pain,' because of pressure on their ears."
The device is also helping those who have birth defects that affect their ears, or have perhaps lost an ear or have disfigurations due to an accident, and aren't able to wear the mask correctly.
"It's been really amazing and very heartwarming to hear the stories," Roney said.
Roney said the initiative was sparked by a Facebook post from a local nurse who was hoping someone would make such a device to ease the pressure off her ears.
Quinn found some prototypes online, made them with the large selection of 3D printing filament material the family already had, and gave them to a family friend who is a nurse to pick the most effective one.
He became a social media hit after Roney posted about his endeavour on Facebook, along with photos of the devices and him proudly sitting with them in his Boy Scout uniform.
"We've been inundated since the post went viral with requests from the U.S., the U.K., all the way to Singapore," Roney said.
"We have mailed out as many as we can, when people request. Local hospitals are picking up from us as well."
The family has also heard from thousands of people who also have 3D printers and have been motivated to take Quinn's lead and print the ear gear themselves, she added.
"The best part is that they're donating to their local hospitals all across Canada, the U.S., the U.K."
Roney describes Quinn, who is an only child, as "a really smart kid" who loves to read, strum on the guitar, and play VR/video games.
He's passionate about "anything technology-based" and got a 3D printer from his parents for his birthday nearly a year ago after he joined the 3D print club at his elementary school.
Most of his friends are too young to be on Facebook and "have no idea" about his ear-gear fame online, Roney said.
"He's pretty low key, you know. He doesn't say too much," she said.
Quinn is also heavily involved in the Boy Scouts, which he joined when was five as a Beaver. His parents are also scout leaders.
"He's earned quite a few badges," Roney said.
"Right now he is working towards Chief Scout badge. And this project he's working on now will definitely be one that he uses towards his Chief Scout award."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2020.
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press