Proctor Public Schools teacher helps in the fight against COVID-19

Industrial technology teacher Tyler Blom is making ventilator manifolds, or splitters, with the use of a 3D printer. He is working to incorporate the project into one of his classes.

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Proctor industrial tech teacher Tyler Blom has been using 3D printers in his home to create quad and dual ventilator splitters to donate during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the two 3D printers he's using run for 24 hours they can print about 12 pieces. (Tyler Schank /

Amid the growing fears of a worldwide shortage of ventilators needed to treat COVID-19 patients, people all around the world are stepping up to find solutions.

One of those people is Tyler Blom, of Esko, an industrial technology teacher at Proctor Public Schools. On Wednesday morning, Blom received an email from the Minnesota Technology and Engineering Educators Association with a link to designs for ventilator manifolds, or splitters, and a call for anyone with a 3D printer to make these parts.

“So I loaded my girls up in my truck and I went to the school to get a 3D printer,” Blom said, adding he could get one from Lake Superior College.

The splitters allow one ventilator to be used by two or four people, depending on whether a double or quad splitter is being used. The process is still considered experimental and only used in an emergency. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health gave hospitals the OK last week to try and treat two coronavirus patients with a single ventilator using specific protocols.

“This could potentially have a huge impact or no impact at all,” Blom said of making the splitters. “But there seems to be some good coming out of it and the gesture seems right.”


Blom also has plans to incorporate this project into distance learning in one of his classes. He said he may even have a student take one of the printers home.

“It's one of those things where it fits well with our Pathways model,” Blom said. “We try to make the assignments as real-life as we possibly can.”

Pathways is a program designed to help high school students graduate with a plan, by providing real-world opportunities in partnership with local organizations.

Proctor Superintendent John Engelking said he’s proud of what all of his teachers are doing during distance learning, including Blom.

“He's been one of the many stars at our school,” Engelking said. “Tyler has always done a little bit extra and he’s just done some really unique things.”

Blom said the school has been supportive of the project. In 24 hours, he printed five double splitters and six quad splitters. The printers are running constantly in Blom’s basement and he believes he has enough filament to last another two weeks.

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The quad and dual ventilator splitters Tyler Blom is printing are tapered to allow connection of the pieces if necessary. (Tyler Schank /


Makers unite!

Blom got the design from a website created by a couple of citizens in Denver who just wanted to help any way they could. One of those citizens is Jeremy Irwin.

Irwin is the CEO of Agency Zero, an advertising agency. He said he heard about these splitters being used in New York and Italy and wanted to know more.

“We really needed to talk to a doctor and get their opinion,” Irwin said. “I happened to know a medical director here in town and he and his wife, who also works at a local hospital, said that these could work.”

They pointed him toward the design by Kevin Low, of Gecko Robotics in Pittsburgh. Irwin said he reached out to Low, got his design for the double splitter and eventually asked him to create a design for a quad splitter.

After receiving the design, Irwin printed one of each and had them vetted by a staff of medical professionals in an ICU at a local hospital.

“They said they worked and asked us to make as many as we could so they would have them on hand if it ever became necessary,” Irwin said.

With the help of his friend, Christopher Seighman and his stepmother Michele Irwin, they began trying to get the word out to any and everyone who has a 3D printer.

“We are really trying to activate anybody who has a 3D printer and to create a source of manufacturing that can get these to hospitals to use in an emergency,” Jeremy Irwin said. “I hope that they are not needed, but we want those doctors that are making those life and death decisions to have them if they are and not after because after could be too late.”


Anyone can download the designs by visiting . The website gives step-by-step instructions for making the splitters and where to send them.

Irwin and his group have also partnered with Project CURE , who will take the splitters and disperse them to hospitals and medical professionals that need them. Project CURE is a non-profit that delivers medical supplies to healthcare organizations, government agencies and first responders/EMS around the country and world.

Irwin said if the splitters don’t end up getting used here in America during the COVID-19 pandemic, they won’t go to waste. He said Project CURE can send them to third-world countries, where hospitals may not have the power to run multiple ventilators.

Irwin said people all over the world have downloaded the design from their website.

“People are itching to help and right now with the stay-at-home order everywhere, people are stuck at home feeling kind of helpless and hopeless and this may be a way for them to make a difference,” he said.

Irwin said any hospital who would like to test the splitters or receive some can find out more by emailing .

“If we can save one life it is all worth it,” Irwin said.

Adelle Whitefoot is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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