Students 3D Print Kneepads for White Helmets

Jack Malcolm, Staff Writer

Dust fills the sky and rubble is falling. People are screaming in pain and for help. Babies cry. Men in white helmets rush around digging in the rubble, searching for survivors and the dead. They update terrified family members on the rescue. It is a dire situation, but not an uncommon one in Aleppo, Syria.

Recently, Aleppo has suffered constant bombing by the Syrian government and Russia. Syria and Russia are trying to stave off coup attempts from rebel forces. The bombings have devastated the city, but many groups have risen up to help.

The White Helmets, as seen in Netflix’s documentary White Helmets, is a group of civilian recuers who go into buildings in Aleppo that have been bombed to rescue civilians and identify the dead. They do very dangerous work and risk their lives everyday.

“When I want to save someone’s life I don’t care if he’s an enemy or a friend. What concerns me is the soul that might die,” says Abed, a White Helmet featured in the film.

In Global Leadership class the students were invited to pursue a project that inspires them. The White Helmets was offered as an example of people rallying for a cause.  After watching White Helmets in class, sophomores Caroline Diesel, Hannah Bizick, Mutaz Faqqouseh, Abby LaGasse, and Grace Schlotthauer decided that they wanted to help. Also inspired by the cause, sophomore John Floersheimer joined their group during his free time.

“I joined the group because I want to use my abilities to help a cause that I feel is so impactful,” says John.

To get ideas, the students went on the White Helmets website and found a list of equipment needs. They then chose to help the White Helmets by donating kneepads. Rather than simply raising money to buy some, they decided to tackle the problem of creating the perfect kneepad themselves.

The group settled on 3D printing various kneepad models that they had designed. They have tested each of the models for durability while in contact with shrapnel and during impact. The group has recently developed their third prototype that is ready for testing.

John and Mutaz work on the design of each model of kneepads, and Hannah, Grace, Abby, and Caroline control the social media aspect of the projects. They tweet about the models they are creating to get input from other people and tweet at the White Helmets to let them know of their undertaking in an attempt to make their work as helpful and efficient as possible.

Global Leadership class has both inspired and facilitated the efforts of these students to take on such challenges. So far, the project is going very well and the group has made strides towards their ultimate goal of sending 3D-printed kneepads to the White Helmets group in Syria.

Watch their tweets for updates on their progress. @ODA_Innovators.