March Community Award Spotlight: Northwest Indiana Schools

Every day, members of our communities rise to meet unexpected challenges. From children to parents and from caregivers to businesses, we have all been asked to step up and become leaders. We’ve faced and pivoted to adapt and grow through our everchanging world due to unforeseen events that affect our daily lives. No action is too small, and together our impact is large.

Your actions should be recognized and celebrated. Our communities are the foundation of our society, and we stand stronger together. PLTW is proud to celebrate diverse communities and its members who exhibit collaboration, leadership, and entrepreneurship in service across the nation. As a result, we have created the PLTW Community Celebration Awards to recognize communities that have come together to care for each other in times of need. Join us in celebrating the following community this month!

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the U.S. in early 2020, hospitals across the country struggled to secure sufficient personal protective gear (PPE) to protect their workers and patients. Matt Pochron, a 2017 graduate of Crown Point High School in Northwest Indiana, heard firsthand about the shortage from his mother who works for Franciscan Health Network.

Pochron designed and produced face shield frame prototypes, and then he and his mother reached out to Crown Point Community School Corporation and Tri-Creek School Corporation for help with production. Matthew LeBlanc, a PLTW Engineering instructor and robotics coach at Crown Point High School, and Jay Blackman, an administrator with Tri-Creek, agreed to help and reached out to other area schools.

“We knew early in the pandemic that one of the greatest areas of need was PPE and that our front-line workers were also being affected at a higher rate than the general public,” LeBlanc said. “When Matt’s mom reached out to us, it was easy to say yes. Later, I was talking to parents Monika Valente and Michael Vesich, and they suggested putting out the call to our booster club and our followers on Facebook. I was also grateful to Mr. Marcinek, who let me take the school’s 3D printers home during lockdown. This let me continue to make shields and also tools that helped people make cloth masks.”

In total, they secured the use of 30 3D printers in schools across five districts, which also included Hanover Community School Corporation, the School City of Hammond, and the School City of Whiting. Community volunteers from around the region helped produce the frames. Volunteers included students and their families with 3D printers at home. Pochron’s design was easy to build, which greatly increased the number of people who could help.

To ensure social distancing, Leblanc set up bins outside of Crown Point High School where community members could drop off donated supplies.

After a few smaller drop offs, the group made a larger drop off of donations, which the hospital president and other members of the hospital’s executive team attended personally to share their appreciation.