Jenna Bortnick and her 3D printer

Jenna Bortnick. Photo by Penny Bortnick.

Since she began holing up at home to ride out the coronavirus, Jenna Bortnick of Rockville has been proving the old adage: Give a girl a face shield and she’ll be safer. Give her a 3D printer and she can make a whole lot of face shields to make a whole lot of people safer.

It was good fortune that Jenna was taking a 3D printing class at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville. Just before Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued his stay-at-home order in March, Jenna, 13, borrowed one of the school’s 3D printers.

That’s when her face shield story began. Jenna saw an article in Patch about Gaithersburg couple Hobie and Alicia Cohen, who were making face shields using a 3D printer. She decided to help.

“They distribute them to hospitals, doctors’ offices and nursing homes in the area,” she says of the Cohens in a video in which she demonstrates the face shields — two curved plastic rims held onto the head by rubber bands. A clear plastic mask that covers the face is attached to three pegs on the rim.

Jenna also makes mask fitters, which hold a standard mask tightly to the face. It’s a favorite of doctors and dentists who work close to their patients.

Then there are the ear savers, which make masks more comfortable.

“Masks hurt after a couple of minutes, and ear savers help,” Jenna says.

Jenna’s mom, Penny Bortnick, said one thing they’ve learned about is the price of a shield. An orthodontist she knows told her he paid $12 for one. Jenna says hers cost $1 apiece to make. And she’s not in it for the money.

“We want to help people,” she says. “We are so willing to help anyone.”

She doesn’t know anyone who has gotten sick or died from COVID-19. And she’s taking the restrictions in stride.

“I’m truly not too scared, personally, and I like being able to help people just by staying home,” she says. “You just have to wait it out.”

Although she doesn’t consider herself “a very social person,” the quarantine is still cramping her style. It’s her first year at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, and the sudden retreat home is keeping her from meeting new people.

“And you can’t hang out with friends, because who knows what could happen,” she says.

In the meantime, she’s made 250 shields, 50 ear savers and a few mask fitters, a new product that Jenna started making a couple of weeks ago, Penny Bortnick says.

Jenna figures she spends an hour or two on the project each day.

“You just have to start the printer going and it goes on its own,” she says.

Jenna Bortnick donates her shields and other products to DMV Fighting Covid, which distributes personal protective equipment (PPE) and which lists her on its website as one of its “makers.”

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