Updated: Jun 10, 2021
Of the COVID-19 pandemic’s many lasting impacts, perhaps one of its most notable are the masks that have become ubiquitous anywhere it is necessary for people to gather in groups.
According to Mask 4U, a team of entrepreneurs out of Southwestern Oregon Community College, the masks available on the market are inadequate. The big idea: design a mask that is safe while remaining comfortable and usable to people of diverse groups.
“Mask 4U is a facemask that we’re designing that is comfortable and fits, that is breathable and has a filter,” said Daniela Vimbela-Garcia, a second-year graduate in general studies at SWOCC. “In this society, people don't want to wear a facemask because it's uncomfortable.”
According to the Mask 4U team, the diversity of face shapes makes designing a comfortable mask a particularly difficult challenge. The team hopes to offset this challenge by making masks customized for each wearer, meaning that everyone will be able to get a facemask that is specially designed to fit each wearer’s unique facial structure.
“We're going to try to target shapes of all faces. I know that everyone has different sizes of shapes of faces,” said Vimbela-Garcia. “So I think the problem and the face mask right now is that people don't feel comfortable wearing the types of different faces because they're not designed for them.”
Similarly, facemasks imply a wide range of difficulties for those who wear them for a long time, challenges that Mask 4U expects to overcome with its uniquely fitted designs.
“Me personally, working in a restaurant when I'm wearing my mask and when my coworkers are wearing their mask, I've noticed that it's hard to hear when they are talking and it's hard to understand people who come in,” said Madison Tennison, a second-year student in the arts and graphic design. Tennison supports herself with part-time work at a local restaurant.
“For our mask, we're also targeting speech impaired ability and hoping that with our new design, people who want this mask will be able to speak and understand everyone around them.”
In addition, Mask 4U hopes to address the problem of fogging glasses for those who wear them.
“We want to create a comfortable facemask that not only fits but also helps to be breathable,” said Vimbela-Garcia. “We want to solve the problem of communication, foggy glasses, that the facemask can be adjustable. So that's my goal for me and my team.”