Creating a Vacuum Thermoformer Designed to Help Fabricate a Powered Air Purifying Respirator for Children; An Analysis of Educational System Control and Deficiencies in Online Instruction

Rempfer, Noah, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Garner, Gavin, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia

In a world developing technological advancements in the classroom at an exponential rate, conscious insight into the effect of these transitions is warranted. Remote learning and computer engagement is efficacious, but only when employed correctly. Given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and its spurious appearance, the development of reliable masking technology for children is necessary to establish technological skills. Without developing children’s computer capabilities during face-to-face interactions, their capacity to learn from an online environment is at risk. The STS research proposed in this scholarly article will highlight the need for teaching technological skills to younger children and the technical research will propose a safe solution to allow for schools to maintain in-person seminars.
Children are considered a low-risk population for COVID-19, but they greatly facilitate the spread of the virus to older populations and therefore require reliable masking technology should they be present for in-person classes. In order to comply with government regulations and ease concerns of school boards and parents, child masks should meet a very high standard of resilience for COVID transmission. Accordingly, the technical research examined a masking solution that filters both the inhalation and exhalation of the individual to combat both transmission and contraction of the virus. The system was to be made in the image of positive air purifying respirator (PAPR) system and molded by plastic from a vacuum thermoformer created by the research group. Electronics were then planned to be integrated into the shell of the mask after the creation of the mold.
The technical research group created a semi-functional vacuum thermoformer for the masking technology. The seal of the thermoformer, designed to maintain a vacuum and shape the plastic heated from the heat lamp, did not maintain the necessary pressure due to a gap in the seal. In turn, the mold for the mask could not be properly formed, and neither could the final masking system. However, the computer systems generated for the proportional integral derivative pressure maintenance and the pulse width modulation code showed great promise for an efficient external and internal filtration system.
The STS research sought to analyze how online education, without proper prior instruction on technological use, left many students at a learning disadvantage compared to traditional classroom exercises. The STS research utilized other scholarly articles about the efficacy of online learning as well as empirical information from databases pertaining to race and intersectionality in order to cross reference the disparities for certain social groups. The research also took anecdotal evidence from newspaper sources in an effort to capture individual perspective on the detriments of online learning in more specific cases. Furthermore, the STS research analyzes the current educational system in light of Actor Network Theory to determine the social groups that hold the most equity in technological integration for education institutions.
The STS research noted that school boards retain a significant amount of equity in technological integration in certain districts of higher socioeconomic class, which may be a model unsuited for different districts. The research detailed that students experiencing the shift to an online platform without prior technological experience, and especially those of specific socioeconomic groups, face a large disparity in the quality of education they receive. Many complicating factors, such as geographic location and access to internet, school funding, and home environments contribute to the shortcomings of online education for certain groups.
The large increase in remote learning has generated a notable divergence in social group power pertaining to the educational system. Analyzing these differences to understand how groups may be affected in negative ways is the focus of this article. Additionally, the technical research considers implementation of technology to redistribute social equity in the educational network to benefit disadvantaged groups.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
COVID-19, Actor Network Theory, Childhood Education, Online Instruction, Remote Learning

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Gavin Garner
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: Ryan Gibiser, Jack Herrmann, Jacob St. Martin, Dale Midkiff

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