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Apple Valley High School recognized for protecting health care workers during COVID-19

Apple Valley High School was a finalist for a Minnesota Technology Association Tekne Award in recognition of efforts of school staff to provide local health care workers with protective equipment at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each year, the Tekne Awards showcase and celebrate the best and brightest of Minnesota’s diverse science and tech-based industry. Apple Valley was one of 10 finalists competing in the COVID-19 Community Response category and was honored during the virtual awards ceremony Nov. 18.

“I am very proud to work with the staff at Apple Valley High School,” STEM educator Chris Lee said. “What we did this past summer is just a reflection of the culture at our school and in our school district. We always strive to do the best for those in our community.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools in March, the hands-on curriculum in Apple Valley’s fabrication lab came to a halt. Lee and a team of others at Apple Valley immediately shifted focus of the fab lab to helping the community stay safe. Within 48 hours, Lee found a design online, had a prototype face shield built and was already reaching out to AVHS graduates in the local medical field to test it out. After getting their approval, Lee and fellow educator Isaac Johnson used the fab lab’s 3D printers and a steady stream of donated material to print and distribute more than 5,000 shields to area hospitals, clinics and organizations by the end of summer.

“We were extremely fortunate to have received many financial donations from the community to support our effort,” said Jim Lynch, STEM program coordinator. “The outpouring of donations far exceeded our expectations.”

“This team has demonstrated a tremendous commitment to supporting our local and regional essential workers,” Apple Valley Principal Drew Mons said. “This is a much-deserved recognition of their work and the difference we can all make when we have our arrows aligned. Problem-finding and solutionmaking is alive and well at Apple Valley High School and in District 196.”

The winners of the Tekne Award in the COVID-19 Community Response category were 3M, the Irondale High School robotics team and the University of Minnesota Technology Commercialization Research Institute. Though Apple Valley didn’t take home the trophy, Johnson said the experience was worth more than the award.

“This was my opportunity to showcase love and support for all whose work would curtail the spread while risking their own health,” he said. “What started as protecting those close to me became so much more as we heard the stories of thankfulness and gratitude from the groups we were able to supply when the national reserves of personal protective equipment was unavailable to them.”