West Swindon student, 11, prints out NHS tension bands from dawn to dusk

By Ben Fitzgerald - 18 May 2020

CommunityHealthVolunteeringEducation

An eleven-year-old student at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy who enlisted her dad to help her assemble a 3D printer has been turning out tension bands for facemasks for the NHS from dawn to dusk.

Year 7 student Harriet Outram, of West Swindon, and dad Mark took around two hours to put the 3D printer together, and quickly got up to speed on how to operate it. Now Harriet, helped by her ten-year-old brother George, starts the program each morning and as the bands are completed the pair stack them, put them into bags and label them with the production date. Tension bands are designed to relieve the pressure that NHS staff may feel on their ears when wearing elasticated face masks. Harriet’s bands have been distributed to Chippenham Community Hospital while Alfie’s have gone to the Great Western Hospital in Swindon and other NHS centres.

Harriet was inspired to start producing tension bands after reading that Year 11 engineering student Alfie Jones at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy was doing that at home. Alfie’s bands have been sent to multiple hospitals and care homes across the country. Harriet says she and her brother have really enjoyed helping.

“Design and technology is my favourite subject at school,” said Harriet. “I love the projects we do there, such as making holders for tea-lights out of wood and metal, and constructing them so that there are holes for the lights to shine through. My dad and I worked out how to put the printer together, and then we went online to find some programs to make the bands. It feels really good to know that these are going out to help those people in the NHS who are helping patients who are poorly.”

Harriet’s mum, Vicky, said she is very proud of her.

“Harriet’s dad is very practical, and with a bit of help from him Harriet has picked this up extremely quickly,” she said. “For someone of her age, I think she’s taken it all on board very fast, and is really committed to what she’s decided she wants to do.”

Royal Wootton Bassett Academy Key Stage 3 co-ordinator for design and technology Stephanie Payne said: “Harriet had no prior experience with 3D printing but with the help of her Dad who works in IT, she was able to start production very quickly! It is astonishing that someone so young has learned new skills in order to help others. She has made just over 1000 tension bands which have been sent to Chippenham Community Hospital . She has shown fantastic initiative and tenacity, and we’re very proud of her too.”

Key Stage 4 co-ordinator Sarah Day said: “We are really proud of Harriet’s achievement and her contribution to help the NHS staff cannot be underestimated. It’s great to see another young female engineer making a difference to society and we look forward to seeing her engineering skills develop over the next few years!”

Douglas Blair, Managing Director of Wiltshire Health and Care which provides adult community NHS services for the county said: “The generosity and kindness shown by our local communities has been really appreciated. PPE equipment can sometimes be uncomfortable to wear, so these tension bands have made a real difference.  Thanks Harriet and George!”

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