After reviewing over 400 entries, judges of the face mask X-prize picked a team of students from Arizona State University as the winner of the $500,000 top award.
The ASU team, dubbed Luminosity Lab, came up with a mask design that includes a bifurcated filtration chamber that directs hot expelled breaths away from the wearer’s face and out of the filter chamber rather than out the top of the mask as in many ordinary face masks. Besides being more comfortable for the wearer, this technique ensures glasses don’t fog. The mask also lifts up easily for eating and drinking and includes what’s called a voice visualizer box. LEDs on the box light up when the wearer speaks, telling others in a group who’s speaking.
The ASU mask design uses two plies of material that allow the mask to exceed 95% filtration efficiency. The team also devised CAD files and fabric templates for easy mass production.
The ASU team includes Nikhil Dave (age 20), Tarun Suresh (age 22), Katie Sue Pascavis (age 19), John Patterson (age 22) and Jerina Winter Gabriel (age 20). Within the first few months of the crisis, the students behind Luminosity Lab helped develop the PPE Response Network, which was responsible for crowdsourcing 3D printers across Arizona to create and distribute over 15,000 units of PPE to clinics facing shortages. They also designed two patent-pending technologies capable of sterilizing disposable N95 masks for reuse.
In addition, two teams, Polair from John Hopkins University in Maryland and Naija Force from Abuja, Nigeria, were named runners up in the competition and will split $500,000 as the two category winners. Team Polair, composed of 25 engineering undergraduates, was chosen as the Future Forward Award winner and won $250,000 for its modular design which allows users to swap out mask bodies and choose a filter based on their environment. Naija Force won $250,000 as the winner of the ‘Mass’k Appeal Award for the transparent face mask they designed, which features straps that can be worn over the ear or on-head. These teams will now begin the process of refining their mask to ensure they meet key filtration metrics.
Additionally, team Novus won the $10,000 People’s Vote Bonus Award which was open to all Next-Gen Mask Challenge top twenty-five teams. The social media-based competition asked teams to defend their design and share their best elevator pitch with their friends, families and followers on social media. Team Novus, based in India, received the most engagement across their social media channels with over 3,000 reactions and interactions on the posts that featured their elevator pitch explaining their design.
Launched this July amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the XPRIZE Next-Gen Mask Challenge, sponsored by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and CNBC host Jim Cramer, asked young inventors between the ages of 15-24 to develop the next generation of protective face masks. Throughout the competition, teams had the opportunity to interact with the challenge’s seven industry partners, who lent their expertise to contestants, including: 3M, Autodesk Inc., Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP, Honeywell, Lydall, National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and Under Armour.
The competition, which received record entries with 992 teams from 76 countries expressing interest within two months, encouraged teams to design a face mask that overcame at least five of the top ten barriers to mask-wearing, as defined by an XPRIZE-conducted survey. Those common barriers to use included: fogging of glasses, getting too hot, being uncomfortable, causing breathing difficulties, making conversations challenging, prohibiting exercise while wearing, causing pain or not fitting properly, blocking facial expressions, preventing eating or drinking, not being eco-friendly, looking ugly or boring, and difficulty acquiring.
Winning teams were chosen, and final judging was conducted by a panel of experts that included:
Ashish Diwanji, president of Lydall Performance Materials
Brian Hovey, vice president, marketing and commercial excellence at Honeywell
Denise Rutherford, senior vice president – corporate affairs at 3M
Dr. Erik Viirre, professor at University of California San Diego’s Department of Neurosciences and director at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination
Garret Gerson, CEO of Calamigos Ranch
Heather Hughes, group vice president/general merchandise manager seasonal, general merchandise and photo at Walgreens
June Ambrose, award-winning creative director, author, costume designer and celebrity stylist
Dr. Kimberly Prather, professor and distinguished chair in atmospheric chemistry at University of California San Diego
Summer Chamblin, Gen-Z entrepreneur, content creator and daughter of June Ambrose
Suzanne DiBianca, chief impact officer at Salesforce
“We congratulate the winners of the competition,” said Jim Cramer, the host of Mad Money on CNBC. “When we started this journey, we wanted to create awareness among young people for the need to wear masks. We are gratified to have so many entries from around the world. Now the hard work begins as our young champions set out to develop these masks into ones that will be demonstrated to be effective and can be worn around the globe to try to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
“Wearing a mask is one of the most important steps we can take in defeating this pandemic,” said Marc Benioff. “The XPRIZE Next-Gen Mask Challenge has unleashed the talent of some of the most incredible young innovators who are eager to help create a healthier future for us all.”
Teams will receive their winnings within sixty days and will work independently as they choose to finalize their prototypes utilizing the insight provided throughout the competition and final feedback from the judges. Those interested in following along can do so at xprize.org/mask, theluminositylab.com, teampolair.com and teamnaijaforce.com.ng. For additional information on XPRIZE, visit www.xprize.org.