Students create PPE for the city’s first responders
29 May 2020 - Irene Bantigue

Dent Education teaches design thinking, making, and entrepreneurship to empower students to discover and develop their innate creative potential to shape the world around them. Rajan Patel is Dent Education’s Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder. He shares details on Dent’s Made@Dent Program, which is currently engaging students to build personal protective equipment (PPE) at home.

Build stuff. Create value. Make a dent.

Over the past few weeks, Rajan Patel, Dent staff, and volunteers have been stopping by their students’ doorsteps, delivering packages. 

These packages contain the building blocks of protective face shields, which have fallen in short supply in the ongoing pandemic. Dent has engaged 51 students to build these shields for Baltimore’s healthcare providers and other essential workers. In just over one month, they have already made over 8,000 units.  

Not only will the PPE keep frontline workers and our community safe, but students earn $1 for each unit they produce, offering a valuable source of income in this challenging time. For some of these students, making face shields is their household’s only source of income. Many of them have parents who have been laid off due to COVID-19. Others have family who are healthcare providers or other essential workers. 

Rajan said that when he first checked in with students as schools closed, many shared that their mental health had suffered. Some shared that they felt “trapped.” Not only were they grappling with new challenges and responsibilities at home, but they were also disconnected from their peers and friends.

“Students were feeling anxious, disconnected, and even hopeless,” he says. “Those are all feelings many of us have felt.” 

The Dent Education team sees building PPE as a way to help students regain a sense of vitality. The more face shields that students build, the more impact they create and the more income they earn. This model ensures that Dent can stay true to their core value of economic empowerment during a time where many Americans are experiencing unemployment or job insecurity. Students also have a team and cohort that they are now a part of, as they build out the operation and combat COVID-19 together.

At home, Rajan posted a sticky note next to his desk. “Build stuff. Create value. Make a dent,” it reads. That sums up Dent Education’s mission–give students across the city a platform to use their creative potential to address pressing issues in the Baltimore community. Students create impact and value, and can be empowered to earn and capture that value at the same time. 

As the demand for PPE grew nationwide, Dent Education applied to multiple funding mechanisms intended to support organizations building face shields with varying levels of success. But to rapidly respond to the city’s growing demand, the team could not afford to wait–they had to tap into their limited existing budget and launch a Facebook fundraiser to get supplies and rapidly ramp up operations. Generous support from the COVID-19 Response Funding Collaborative of Greater Baltimore and the federal Paycheck Protection Program has since enabled them to scale their efforts, although the latter came after significant delay. 

In early April, the city established the PPE Manufacturing Fund. This initiative administered in partnership with the Baltimore Development Corporation delivers the promise of a more innovative and responsive system, as well as sustainable economic opportunity over the long-term. What began as a $50K pilot program allocating funds for the procurement of locally-made PPE for city staff and agencies has since increased tenfold; now dedicating $100K for additional operational grants and $400K in procurement. 

In early April, the city established the PPE Manufacturing Fund. This initiative administered in partnership with the Baltimore Development Corporation delivers the promise of a more innovative and responsive system, as well as sustainable economic opportunity over the long-term. What began as a $50K pilot program allocating grant funds for the production of locally-made PPE has since increased tenfold–now dedicating $100K for additional operational grants and $400K in procurement for city staff and agencies. 

In late May, Dent Education was named one of ten manufacturers and organizations awarded grants in the city’s second round of funding. They were also recently charged with producing 2,500 face shields for the city’s fire department at a unit price of $4 per shield. The team quickly created and delivered the units earlier this week. With greater operational funds and local procurement opportunities from the city, the Dent team is able to engage a greater number of students in its program, as well as direct the funds straight to more families and communities experiencing financial difficulties at this time.

“I feel important when I’m making face shields because I know that I’m creating something that will help someone save a life. Even though I’m young, I feel helpful knowing we’re all fighting this together,” says Liz Gomez-Peña, one of the many remarkable students engaged with Dent’s Made@Dent Program.

How can you help?

  • Join over 30 local volunteers to support students and keep our community safe! If you are in Baltimore, Rajan says, you can help by driving boxes to/from students homes, performing quality control on completed units, or donating key supplies. 
  • Fill out this short interest form to support the city’s students and Dent Education’s Made@Dent Program.
  • Check out their brand new website and buy PPE directly from Dent via MadeatDent.com.