Mamaroneck, New York high school student Jerry Orans saw a need and put his friends (and their printers) to work.
5 min read
“When I was a child and I saw terrifying things on the news, my mother said to me, 'Find the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. “
This was written by Fred Rogers, also known as Mr. Rogers, in 2002. And the truth is that, in the midst of the pandemic, I didn't have to search long to find a helper. Jerry Orans is a 15-year-old sophomore in my hometown of Mamaroneck, New York who is more than helping: He leads a manufacturers movement to get the personal protective equipment they desperately need.
We spoke on the phone about his project, Hack the Pandemic , and how he can help support this incredible grassroots effort to equip first responders.
Dan Bova: What gave you the idea to do this?
Jerry Orans: I've been reading for a while about how all of these New York area hospitals don't have enough PPE or personal protective equipment to treat their patients safely, while keeping other patients and staff safe of the hospital. So I thought, well, that's not good! Then I realized that there are all these quarantined people at home who have 3-D printers that don't necessarily use them at all. And all these people who can sew and don't necessarily sew anything. So I thought, why don't we ask them to start making medical supplies? So I started on March 23rd and since then we have over a hundred active manufacturers and three global distribution partners.
That is incredible. How did you find the plans for the team?
The original that really helped me click with the idea was a 3D printing company called Prusa3D. They made the original 3-D printable mask design, and from there we have iterated and worked on a design that allows for faster printing. The original Prusa prototype was approved by the Czech Ministry of Health, and the design has been validated by the FDA.
Did you imagine that this idea would come true as quickly as it has?
My original idea was to get to the robotics teams. Our school, Mamaroneck High School, has one and there are 50 robotics teams in Westchester County, none of which are doing anything right now because the season has been canceled. Then things started to leak like that, and very soon it took off.
How did you get the word out?
I set up a website and Twitter page and tagged a couple of my friends, as well as Prusa3D and Masks for Docs, which was the original company that handled the distribution.
And it really took off when I got in touch with the Larchmont-Mamaroneck STEM Alliance, which is our local nonprofit, and they were able to use their gigantic email marketing to spread the word and invite people to help out and do a brainstorm. And now we are ready to accept tax free donations through the STEM Alliance. I did some interviews with places like our local public access television station LMCTV and other media, but I don't have a marketing budget.
How many masks and shields have you been able to make with your network?
We have created around 500 shields, over 20 intubation boxes, 1,000 ear protectors, and we have an order in process for 20,000 reusable face protectors. Our main problem is that home machines are not designed to run at high speeds all day, which is why we are looking for corporate partners that have machines and materials that they are not using to join us.
How can people help?
You can contact us on our website Hack the Pandemic or on Twitter @HackThePandemic and you can make donations here . We are looking for volunteer manufacturers and also larger manufacturing companies that can rent or donate space on their machines to us.
How does it feel to have started this movement?
It's great to be helping hospitals and then be able to hear from the doctors and nurses. I receive messages such as: “The hospital where I work had no supplies and since they could give me 10 or 15 masks or shields, I can continue treating patients.” It is quite amazing.