“Look for the Helpers”

Mr. Rogers famously encouraged children to “look for the helpers” when they see scary things on TV. It was a simple message to help vulnerable preschoolers cope with difficult concepts. But the coronavirus pandemic is a stressful, frightening situation even for adults, and at times we all have probably felt like a vulnerable preschooler.

Today, I’m looking for the “helpers” — technology companies here in the Midwest that are stepping up to lessen the pandemic’s horribleness, often behind the scenes. Here are some of these efforts I’ve come across in recent days:

  • Scores of 3D printing businesses across the Midwest — including Fast Radius and 3DPX here in Chicago — began producing respirator masks and face shields for healthcare workers and ventilator components for patients infected with COVID-19.
  • Fargo, N.D.-based Appareo Systems, a designer and manufacturer of electronic, mechanical, and software products primarily for aerospace, defense, and transportation, partnered with the University of Minnesota for a commitment to produce 2,000 emergency ventilators to use on COVID-19 patients in North Dakota.
  • Education software company Abre in Cincinnati announced it would make its communication platform free and available to schools and families for remote learning in light of the statewide school cancellation.
  • Incubators and innovation centers across the Midwest are challenging entrepreneurs to completely or partially transition their focus to COVID-related solutions. Among these is the partnership between mHUB, 1871, and MATTER in Chicago to facilitate responses to frontline challenges from COVID-19, including 3D-printed personal protection equipment. (Full disclosure: mHUB is a sponsor of this newsletter.)
  • GiftAMeal in St. Louis is a mobile app business that provides a donated meal to someone in need whenever a user takes a picture in a participating restaurant. It is temporarily suspending its location requirement for taking photos and will support donated meals for takeout, delivery, and gift card purchases during the mandatory restaurant shutdown period.
  • Selfless.ly in Indianapolis is partnering with Serve Indiana and Hedges to provide free volunteer management software to connect organizations that need volunteers during the pandemic with people who can help from home.
  • University of Minnesota medical students partnered with health-tech startup Clinician Nexus to launch MN Covidsitters, reports the Star Tribune. The platform will match healthcare workers with medical students who can provide childcare, pet-sitting, and errand-running services during the outbreak.
  • A professor created a social media app at the University of Cincinnati’s innovation lab to connect quarantined seniors or those with dementia and Alzheimer’s with their loved ones, reports Local 12. The app, HiLois, allows family members to remotely connect with the senior’s digital device to send them photos and ease the challenges of isolation.

We’re likely in this for a long slog and looking for the good things that are occurring can help us to stay positive. Who am I missing? Tell me about the inspiring COVID-19 tech stories happening in your city and I’ll share them in a future newsletter. Email me at katie@centered.tech or find me on Twitter @centereddottech.

Be well and be kind.

Best,

Katie

Other stories we’re watching:

  • Chicago legal tech company Relativity is launching a fellowship program to help people in underserved neighborhoods launch careers in tech. (Built In Chicago)
  • Pandemic-related layoffs appear to be disproportionately affecting coastal startups’ satellite campuses, including those in the Midwest. (TechCrunch)
  • The Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition is providing 100 iPads to middle school students who do not have the technology necessary for online learning. (Milwaukee Business Journal)

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