PPE For Diverse Bodies
In December 2020, a team of faculty and student researchers from FIT were awarded a grant through the SUNY Prepare Innovation and Internship Program, which was created to support research and operations related to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. The project—PPE for Diverse Bodies: FIT for Diverse Populations—was spearheaded by faculty members from the departments of Fashion Design, Science and Math, Textile Development and Marketing, and Production Management, with student participants chosen by those faculty members. In this interdepartmental, interdisciplinary effort, the team of faculty and students collaborated to solve a common challenge with personal protective equipment (PPE), vital in the fight against COVID-19, namely, that it did not fit diverse bodies and populations. The team developed an adjustable mask made of sustainable materials that would fit a wider range of faces. They presented their project to SUNY in April 2021 and were awarded funds under the SUNY Prepare Innovation and Internship Grant to advance and develop the prototype PPE.
With this project, the team aims to develop an innovative solution to PPE challenges during the current global health crisis and beyond. Face masks, often plastic-based and designed to be discarded after one use, undoubtedly contribute to the already massive amount of toxic plastic waste flowing into the oceans. In addition to environmental concerns, many masks available on today’s market do not effectively protect the user. Poorly fitting PPE can put the wearer at risk of exposure to the virus. For instance, face masks are typically designed for men; because of the often significant differences in the shape and size of male and female faces, they may not create a tight seal on a female face. Other aspects of a wearer’s body (shape, weight, and size) can also reduce the effectiveness of a face mask