Antioch College professor helps during pandemic
Michael Casselli is an assistant professor of sculpture and installation at Antioch College. After the school closed during the pandemic, he utilized the school’s three-dimensional printers to make face shields and mask clips.
Face masks are often uncomfortable because they put pressure on the ears. These plastic clips, designed and made on 3-D printers, were requested by many people.

Antioch Assistant Professor Michael Casselli printed more than 400 clips on 3-D printers over the past few months.
By Beth Anspach
Contributing Writer

Antioch College has a long and storied history. Originally founded in 1852 as a private liberal arts school, it closed in 2008 due to budget issues. But Antioch alumni, faculty and students didn’t want to see their school disappear for good from the community of Yellow Springs.

Michael Casselli was one alumnus called upon to help reopen the school, returning to Yellow Springs after 20 years away.

“I was born and raised in Cleveland,” Casselli said. “I attended Antioch, graduated and then spent a year building theater sets before attending the Rhode Island School of Design.”

Casselli moved to New York in 1990 and worked as a technical director, production and tour manager for an “experimental” dance and theater company. The company was passionate about doing things differently — experimenting with form and trying to “disrupt the traditional.”

“I was contacted about a group wanting to reopen Antioch in Yellow Springs,” Casselli said. “They were called ‘Nonstop Antioch’ and they wanted to hold on to the basic DNA of the college.”

This group of faculty, students and of course, alumni, were determined to see Antioch once again offering classes. Casselli decided to join them in the effort to create an educational program that paid homage to the original school and that could continue without an official campus if needed.

“I came to Yellow Springs for my 20th reunion,” Casselli said.

“There were 700 people there and I met with the new faculty and old friends who wanted my help.”

In 2011, after three years, the college opened its doors once again and Casselli decided to stay and teach, becoming an assistant professor of sculpture and installation.

And over the years since, he has done installations at local galleries using different objects to help “ramp up conversations.”

“I teach some traditional sculpture methods as well as installation,” Casselli said. “It’s important for the students to learn to use their hands and how to use and change materials.”

Casselli’s classes have helped his students to build problemsolving skills and to bring their ideas and theories into practices.

And never have these skills been more important than this year when the COVID-19 global pandemic shut down colleges and universities across the nation.

“We were very close to the end of the quarter when we had to switch to remote learning,” Casselli said about the closure in mid-March. “Fortunately, we’ve all been online, and I was teaching a class called ‘Poetic Technology,’ with the idea of figuring out how to make things happen magically with technology.”

Casselli and his students continued to come together using both the Google Hangouts and Zoom platforms and though it was frustrating at times, it was a way they could all share their projects and ideas.

With face coverings suddenly become a huge need in the new COVID-19 world, Casselli and his students recognized an opportunity — using three-dimensional printers to created face shields and clips designed to take pressure from face masks off the ears.

“We started making the shields and clips and someone in town saw what we were doing, and I suddenly had a request for 500 clips,” Casselli said. “Everyone jumped in and we quickly produced clips and shields with three printers.

Three-dimensional printing is a process of creating solid objects from a digital model.

This is accomplished by laying down successive layers of materials until an object is complete.

“I use all plant based and biodegradable plastic,” Casselli said.

“The shields and clips can be cleaned with alcohol and reused.”

Since the pandemic hit the local area, Casselli has created more than 100 face shields and upwards of 400 mask clips, which has kept him extremely busy while the school has been closed. Antioch College is planning to reopen on Aug. 31 for their first quarter with a safety plan in place for all students and faculty.

“If someone is looking at going to college and wants a more experiential approach to learning, Antioch may be the place,” Casselli said. “The school really does prepare you for being out in the world and students can go anywhere and set themselves up for success. That’s an important thing. I moved back here to keep the college going and to help it to thrive.”

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