While 9-year-old Frank Milde is home in Mystic, he's busy at work. He's using his 3D printer to help make ear guards for essential workers. And on each one, he's printed 'USA HERO' or 'NYC HERO' and is donating them to front line workers in Connecticut and New York City.
"They have sore earlobes, and they can't take off their masks," said Frank.
The fourth-grader became interested in 3D printing at an afterschool program, and for Christmas, Santa delivered by bringing him one of his own. At first, Frank started making toys and gadgets, but with the coronavirus pandemic, he and his family felt it could be used to make a difference for those saving lives.
"The best thing everybody can do right now, of course, is stay home. But if we have the capacity to do something from home, whether it's make a mask or just a happy video or just share a little joy, he certainly has brought joy into this house," said Frank's mom Kate Milde.
So far he's made dozens of ear guards in various sizes with many already in use. And he's not stopping there. He's making visor frames for essential workers who need them too.
Frank has Sensory Processing Disorder, which his mom said is like being on the spectrum.
"We just describe it as sometimes he needs to get the wiggles out," said Kate. "He's worked through issues on concentration, impulse control, and movement breaks are really an important part of his day."
Kate said his project to donate ear guards and visor frames to essential workers has received a lot of wonderful community support.
"We wanted to make sure to highlight that kids with special needs can do special things too," said Kate.
Frank will keep churning out gear for essential workers and doing his part to help. When asked how he feels about people using the items he's printing, he said, "I'm really grateful."
If you're an essential employee and would like an ear guard or if you would like to donate a gift card to help Frank buy 3D printing material, you can email the Milde family at MildeFrank5@gmail.com