A Private School with a Public Purpose

May 6, 2020 | All School, Build People Up, Come to Play, Design Thinking, Highlights, IMAMUSTANG, Impact, Maker, Multiplier, Share the Well

Contributed by Director of Student Engagement and Alumni Relations Katie Trenney

“We are a School of inquiry, innovation, and IMPACT,” Maker Jim Tiffin shared. “We are a private school with a public purpose. We have the capability, and therefore we have the responsibility.” 

Over the last eight weeks, our communities have been facing the unknown. Many things have changed: children and parents are learning and working from home; restaurants, parks, and movie theaters have closed; concerts and special Mount Vernon events such as Mustang Rally and Senior Prom have been canceled, reimagined, and/or postponed.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that Mount Vernon is a school of impact. This remains true whether we are together in person, or demonstrating that we are better together, even apart. 

Like something out of John Krasinski’s Some Good News video series, as a School, we have heard and seen countless reports of members of our community stepping up to the plate and giving back to the Atlanta community during this unprecedented time. 

Recently, Emma Markland, Class of 2021 was highlighted because she saw a need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in her community, and began filling that need by making cloth masks to send to family members, friends, and those in the medical field. 

Katie Goodwyn, Class of 2020 has been putting her skills to use and creating masks to donate, too. Sharing her progress of more than 30 masks on Twitter, with the hope to make and donate more. Additionally, Caroline Betz, Class of 2021 has made more than 100 face masks to distribute to the homeless community in Atlanta. As a leader with the group Girl Talk, she was spotlighted on their Instagram, where Mentor Dr. Kelli Bynum shares, “She is a true example of a leader and spends hours giving back to her community.” 

In Lower School, Grade 2 student Shepherd Powell and his dad have been 3D printing face shield headbands for Atlanta Beats COVID, an organization working directly with doctors, nurses, and healthcare staff at Atlanta area facilities to accommodate their needs. 

Grade 3 student Ona Oli gives back through a company for doll and hair accessories that she created two years ago, Beautiful Curly Me. Recently, Ona added face masks as part of her business, and for every two masks purchased, she donates one to a healthcare worker in the Atlanta area. As seen on CBS46, Ona says, “The community needs them [masks] to stay safe, and since we already make our sleep caps here in Atlanta, it was an easy switch and I am so glad to be able to help others at a time like this.”

Four of MV’s Maker, Design, and Engineering teachers Jim Tiffin, T.J. Edwards, Chris Andres, and Melvin Feng, have answered the call to help, too. As the maker movement has continued to grow, they have been waiting for their chance to give back to the community in this capacity. 

Across the world, members of the maker movement have been producing PPE, refitting large and small manufacturing equipment to produce sanitizing chemicals, inventing “make-it-at-home” technologies to provide for health care workers, hacking ventilators to allow them to serve more than just one patient, and more. 

Jim Tiffin began the effort by donating his personal stock of safety glasses to a local hospice center whose nurses were in need. Together, the four makers put Mount Vernon’s 3D printing equipment to use by fabricating face shields. 

Thanks to the growing maker network across the globe, the four teachers did not have to start from scratch as there were already multiple iterations of the masks they were creating online. They tinkered, tweaked, had many fail-up moments, and changed the plans they found until they found one that worked best with their equipment and materials. 

In addition to face shields for Atlanta Face Shields and Atlanta Beats COVID, they also have created comfort straps for surgical masks in partnership with MatterHackers

It has been a very different experience in 3D printing for this team of four as they are used to more one-off type projects that students create. Now, they are mass-producing as part of a larger effort and supply chain.

“We are a School of inquiry, innovation, and IMPACT,” Mr. Tiffin shared. “We are a private school with a public purpose. We have the capability, and therefore we have the responsibility.” 

On April 23, Mr. Tiffin went to Roswell Firelabs, a local maker studio, to join a group of volunteers assembling the different pieces needed to make the face shields, all organized through Atlanta Face Shields. 

Through this experience, he saw how many Atlanta industries have been involved to make this happen. From Coca-Cola supplying the clear plastic for the shields, to teams of individuals and schools who are “printing like crazy”. As of April 23, Atlanta Face Shields had delivered over 5,000 pieces of PPE. 

At Roswell Firelabs where Mr. Tiffin volunteered, there was an assembly line that handled everything from inspecting equipment, sanitizing and assembling, quality check, disinfecting the equipment again, and packaging everything to be shipped out. At the end of the night when he volunteered, they had assembled 275 face shields to be sent to both Emory ICU at John’s Creek and the Atlanta Police Department.

“It was very impressive,” he shared. “And to think, every step of the manufacturing process is done with tools that our students are exposed to beginning in Grade 1!” To date, Mr. Tiffin, Mr. Edwards, Mr. Andres, and Mr. Feng have produced 270 pieces of PPE to be donated.

At Mount Vernon, students and teachers are constantly looking for ways to identify issues, dive deeper to empathize with users, and create solutions to make an impact. Today.