Best Projects 2020 features all the nominated entries submitted ‘Submit your Project’ category. All the entries consist of innovative projects run by existing enterprises in the form of businesses, NGOs or informal programs.
0-Gap Mask Initiative
Explain your project in details:
We believe that everyone deserves to protect their respiratory health through reliable and fitting masks. With the threat of COVID-19 this year and with air pollution being recognized as a global health threat by the World Health Organization (WHO), it is critical for the possession of quality masks to not be treated as a privilege but a fundamental right for everyone. Unfortunately, the prices of high quality reusable masks range from $20 to $80; proper respiratory protection is not feasible for almost half of the world population, who receive a daily income of less than $5.50. Most affordable masks, on the other hand, have 68% leakage rates of pollutants due to the issue of poor facial fit. After nine months of research, reaching out to healthcare workers, and prototyping, we came up with a $7 reusable mask that maximizes facial fit and filters out 99.95% of pollutants: the 0-Gap Mask. The 0-Gap Mask precisely conforms to the facial structures of its users when heat (from hot water or hair dryers, both of which are readily available to the general public) is applied. For especially those with facial disfigurements, paralysis, or facial structures deviating from the median contours, our masks help protection from airborne diseases and pollutants become more accessible. To further this initiative, we have been collaborating with a local hospital and a charity organization in South Korea to reach our beneficiaries. With the 0-Gap Mask Initiative, we hope to make respiratory protection possible for everyone.
Impact of your enterprise on sustainable development
Our initiative aims to help more people more effectively protect themselves from air pollution and airborne viruses by impacting the following SDGs: Goal 10, reduced inequalities, and Goal 3, good health and well-being. Costing $7 to produce, our masks prove to be three to ten times more affordable long-term compared to other high quality masks. Affordable production helps us target Goal 10, allowing us to donate our masks at a greater quantity to lower-middle and low income families. As for Goal 3, the thermoplastic lining of our masks help accommodate all facial structures, and our filter layers help protect users from 99.95% of pollutants. Currently, our primary measure of success is the number of underprivileged individuals we distribute our masks to. This also includes our coverage of regions throughout Korea that are severely polluted or most affected by COVID-19. So far, our efforts to reduce respiratory health disparities have been recognized by global organizations like the Diamond Challenge for High School Entrepreneurs, Project Paradigm, and the Da-il Charity Organization. After consulting with medical professionals, who confirmed our masks would help for combating COVID-19, we recently collaborated with a hospital and a charity organization in Korea to further our impact. Through this collaboration, we had the opportunity to distribute 2 months worth of masks to a group of over 200 individuals in Korea, the US, Nepal, and Uganda. Our recipients consist of medical personnel, low-income families, and people in high risk groups for COVID-19. With public schools--which strictly require students to wear masks upon attendance-- reopening around the world, we also helped distribute masks to students who would otherwise be unable to afford masks and attend school. All in all, our initiative benefits people living in regions highly impacted by air pollution or COVID-19, while maximizing facial fit and affordability.
Sustainability and future plans
The objective of the 0-Gap Mask Initiative is to make respiratory health non-discriminatory. In order to produce and distribute our masks, we are using funds we have earned from entrepreneurship and educational organizations like Project Paradigm and the World of 7 Billion. Each mask costs $7 to produce, and these funds are enough for producing up to 2 months worth of masks for 500 individuals. Currently, we are working to collaborate with the Korean Red Cross and the Ministry of Education to produce 0-Gap masks for 350 underprivileged students this year. For funding future projects, we plan to launch a Kickstarter and a Wadiz (a South Korean crowdfunding platform) campaign. As we enter college, we are continuing this initiative by distributing our masks to medical personnel and outdoor workers. With many students unaware of the importance of mask-facial fit and how air-borne viruses spread, we also plan to create an educational program (for public schools near our campuses) about protective measures against air-pollution and viruses. As for improving our design, in order to ensure ease of breathability, we are scheduled to send our mask samples to Nelson Labs in the coming months to conduct a differential pressure test. From 2021 to 2025, our targets include obtaining a utility patent, distributing our masks to 5000+ individuals, and expanding our initiative to other countries with severe air pollution (India and China). Ultimately, we want to accommodate as many people living in heavily polluted or coronavirus-affected regions around the world as possible.
Your profile as an entrepreneur
After noticing stroke patients struggling with the facial fit of their masks at a senior care center in South Korea, we knew that something needed to change. At first, we Googled if there were any affordable masks maximizing facial fit that we could recommend to them, but we struggled to find any. After weeks of research, we learned that poor facial fit affects not only those with facial disfigurements, but also practically everyone who wears masks; the standardized design of most masks lead to poor conformation to varying facial structures, causing large pollutant leakage. As 18-year-old students passionate about respiratory health, we took it upon ourselves to create the 0-Gap Mask. So far, we experienced success in receiving funding and reaching out to incubators. 0-Gap Mask was recently featured by Horn Entrepreneurship, one of the leading innovation programs in the US. In past years, we have placed as a finalist for the Paradigm Challenge, third for the World of 7 Billion competition, and in the top nine for the Diamond Challenge Social Innovation Track. Miru, a biomedical engineering student at USC, takes the lead in developing filter layer combinations to maximize particulate filtration efficiency. Skilled at 3D modelling and graphic design, Miru also produces promotional content for our initiative. Angela, who studies computer science at Northeastern University, is currently developing a website detailing our past projects. Applying feedback received from surveys, Angela contributes greatly to product design to maximize comfort and filtration. Sarah is a marketing research intern, who will be attending UChicago in 2021. With experience leading a global entrepreneurship community, Sarah reached out to start-up incubators and different organizations to conduct mask filtration tests and marketing surveys. Together, we aim to improve respiratory health globally without leaving a single person out of touch with respiratory protection.