Purdue safety engineers help for pandemic

By Tom Dienhart, GoldandBlack.com

Jake Thieneman is lifting weights in his parent’s basement in Carmel, Ind. Not an ideal set up for the former Purdue safety who is trying to forge a career in the NFL. But, the coronavirus pandemic has forced all of us to find alternative ways to carrying on with our lives and careers.

“I have a weight room with a very basic squat rack, some dumbbells and bands,” the Sigma Chi brother said. “Weight room-wise, I have enough to get by. Running outside, doing speed and agility stuff. I definitely am in better position than most people.”

And soon, little brother and current Purdue safety Brennan Thieneman will be home to train with Jake, who signed a two-year contract with the 49ers this offseason after joining the franchise late last season as a rookie free-agent following stints with the Giants and Colts. Youngest brother Dillon—a standout freshman at Westfield High—also will be working out with his older brothers.

But the 6-1, 215-pound Thieneman is doing more than just training for the NFL. He’s also trying to help the nation deal with the coronavirus pandemic by working with The Ventilator Project, which is non-profit based in Boston that wants to produce low-cost ventilators to help those dealing with COVID-19.

Jake Thieneman

“People afflicted badly with the virus start needing a ventilator to breathe and survive,” said Thieneman. “Without that, it leads to a higher chance of dying. Currently, the demand for those ventilators will out pace the supply by as much as 30 times the next couple of weeks. This company is designing a very easy-to-make and cheap ventilator to be built with easily sourced parts that they can start manufacturing quickly.”

Major ventilator manufacturers are struggling to build enough ventilators. And hospitals are struggling to assemble enough capital to buy the expensive ventilators needed. Time is of the essence.

A co-founder of the project is Sigma Chi brother Tyler Mantel, who is a Purdue graduate and entrepreneur who has shifted his focus from startup Watertower Robotics to The Ventilator Project. Thieneman got drawn into the project by Mantel’s younger brother Preston, who is a friend of Thieneman. Both Preston Mantel and Thieneman have mechanical engineering degrees from Purdue.

The Ventilator Project consists of a team of over 15 engineers who have developed a prototype for a low-cost ventilator for global distribution.

“Normal ventilators cost $35-50,000 each,” said Thieneman. “These hospitals don’t have the funds to buy a lot of these for one-time use. And those ventilators are lot more complicated and do a lot more than just help people breathe.

“The ventilator we are designing is just for coronavirus patients, so they are much simpler and cost $1-2,000. The non-profit also is working on approval from the FDA through an emergency approval process.”

The ventilator described in company literature is a “stripped down, bare bones, version of what major companies produce.” Once made, the company will be working with strategic partners to get the ventilators manufactured and distributed.

Thieneman’s role in all of this: To help spread the word about The Ventilator Project through social media and public relations. You can find The Ventilator Project on Instagram (@ventilatorproject), Twitter (@ventilatorproj) and Facebook (@theventilatorproject).

“I am trying to get things shared, running ads on-line, updating the website,” said Thieneman. “We are trying to get more PR and more people involved.”

To that point, Thieneman says the company is looking for people to donate money, while also searching for help from engineers and/or medical professionals. Corporate and strategic partners also are needed.

For more information, visit the website: www.theventilatorproject.org.