After months of making 3D face masks for frontline workers, Professor Charles Shearrow of the University of Harrisburg died Tuesday of his own battle against COVID-19.
Known as Chip by family, friends, and colleagues, the 61-year-old was the senior professor of the Advanced Manufacturing Program at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. When COVID-19 became a serious problem last year and personal protective equipment for frontline workers was running low, Shearrow began solving the problem.
His solution was to teach his students how to make 3D protective face masks that were distributed to first responders and long-term carers through partnerships with medical organizations. In a statement released Wednesday by the University of Harrisburg, officials said he and his team produced 2,300 of them.
"When COVID-19 hit last year, Chip went into action to make face shields for frontline workers," said university spokesman Steven Infanti. “Since April, Shearrow has spent many of his weekends making batches of face shields on one of the University of Harrisburg's 3D printers. He worked with the Pennsylvania Health Care Association and other organizations to provide the 3D printed face shields in the event of a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment. By October, Shearrow and students, including his son Charles Shearrow II, were making 2,344 face shields free of charge for those who need them most. "
Born and raised in Ohio, Shearrow's ability to create something out of nothing was evident from his childhood, said his cousin David Shearrow. David, who now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, said he and Chip were the same age and stayed in contact their entire lives, until the last time they texted about two weeks ago.
"He was an extremely creative and intelligent person," said David. “Whether construction or mechanics or unique solutions; He just thought differently from most people. His parents owned property in southern Ohio land. We went into the woods and played. When we were 9 or 10 years old, we decided to build a tree house. He just tossed everything up and I didn't even know how to use a hammer. Even at this young age he showed the ability to build and be a mechanical genius. I will miss him very much. "
Gigi Rice, another cousin of Shearrow, said he was an eternal "optimist," which makes it even more difficult for her to come to terms with the fact that he has died. Rice, who lives near Los Angeles, said he was the cousin who was there for anyone when they needed support.
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"Chip was a brilliant teacher, person and person," she said. “He was just a very, very good person. He was humble despite being the best educated in the family. He loved his family. And he loved his students. "
The fond memories of growing up with Shearrow will stay with Rice too, she said.
"The hut was our favorite place," she said. “We went to the tree house on top of the mountain and Chip was the only person who could fix it all. We had a Tarzan swing. We'd go fishing. He would smoke ribs. It was a really fun time at the cabin just spending whole weekends together in southern Ohio. "
Shearrow received his Bachelor of Science in Technology Education, his Masters in Science in Technology Education, and his Ph.D. in technology all from Ohio State University.
After completing his education, Shearrow worked at Ohio Northern University. His accomplishments included leading an undefeated robotics team for seven years and bringing the Society Manufacturing Engineers' National Robotics competition to the university in 1997. From 2000 to 2013 he worked at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, where he was directly involved in the restoration of Space Shuttle Columbia.
Before joining Harrisburg University, where he has been with the company for about two years, he also worked at TE Connectivity in Harrisburg.