Mask Effectiveness: A Project to Connect Air Pollution and Materials Science

Jean M. Andino, Cameron N. Morgan, Lizandra C. Godwin

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


The global COVID-19 pandemic promoted the world community to use face masks to reduce viral transmission. This practice has again raised interest in the effectiveness of masks in preventing the spread of virus particles. This theme provided a unique, timely subject to enhance learning in the field of air pollution control, while enabling distinct connections to the fields of material science as well as human health and air quality. A collaborative “Mask Effectiveness” class project was developed with the objectives of enabling students (a) to identify the types, sizes, and movement of particles that are found in air, particularly those that are expelled during normal human activity, and (b) to characterize the material properties that influence the control of these different particles. A specific focus was placed on the use of face masks made from common textile materials. The “Mask Effectiveness” project required the development of Excel-based animations and tools that encourage students to explore relationships between air pollutants and materials science. The tool was developed such that it provides a solution to the limitations of a student design project for online and hybrid courses. By engaging with the computer-based Excel tool, students are able to evaluate alternative scenarios that include the collection efficiency of particles that arise from different sources (talking, coughing, and sneezing), and the relationships between mask “breathability”, porosity, and collection efficiency of a mask. The project was designed to be implemented initially with undergraduate engineering students across two universities- Arizona State University and the University of New Mexico. One specific goal at Arizona State University was to reinforce concepts consistent with entrepreneurial mindset learning approaches. An additional goal was to provide a learning experience which allowed students to connect environmental engineering and material science topics to a design challenge that addressed a global community need. This paper describes the specific activities that were undertaken, and connects these activities to ways in which teaching methods may be altered by using an Excel-based module.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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