Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, we are all familiar with masks, sometimes called facial barrier covers. Masks of this order used on the face to protect the user and help filter the user’s respiratory secretions to prevent the transmission of disease. Worldwide, public health organizations encourage citizens to wear masks in public spaces to reduce the spread of respiratory diseases, such as COVID-19.
According to challenge.gov, there are barriers that reduce the general use of the mask, including contact dermatitis, physical discomfort, blurring of glasses and communication difficulties. The organization also says that many masks currently available promise unconfirmed protection features, with no scientific evidence to support the allegations. The agency says there is a need to develop better designs, materials and technologies that are more acceptable to users and have quantified performance measures.
To solve the problems and accelerate the development of new masks, BARDA and the National Institute of Safety and Occupational Health partnered on the Masks Innovation Challenge: Building the Mask of Tomorrow. The challenge aims to improve the comfort, utility and protection capabilities of the masks used during the day-to-day activities by the general public, when physical distance is not possible.
The competition supports the development of mask designs meeting defined performance standards and overcoming barriers to use. The challenge is to develop innovative and effective designs for low-cost, mass-produced devices for use by the general public. The challenge is to look for designs that can be placed and used without extensive adaptation procedures or complicated interactions.
The challenge lasts at least six months and will be divided into two phases, followed by a possible third phase. All respondents are eligible for Phase 1. Participants can also be involved in Phase 2 without having participated in Phase 1. Phase 1 involves submitting concepts for redesigned masks with up to 40 regional winners in four announced regions. Phase 2 is a proof of concept, in which participants must submit solutions in response to a scenario, with finalists invited to send prototypes for testing.