Development of a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) for Runners; Sewing Machines and the Ethical Treatment of Garment Workers

Louie, Kimberly, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Rogers, Hannah, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Garner, Gavin, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Seabrook, Bryn, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

The following Capstone project and STS Research Paper both discuss the sociotechnical uses and design of technology to fit the needs of the user. The Capstone project will be discussed first and is focused on developing a powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) for long distance runners. The project focuses on developing a device that fits the needs of long-distance runners during a time of Covid-19 restrictions and safety guidelines. The STS research paper is focused on how the technological advancements made in sewing machinery affect the ethical treatment of garment workers. The paper discusses how garment workers are negatively affected by outdated sewing machinery and a growing demand from consumers.

Fabric face masks are encouraged to be worn to reduce the spread of Covid-19. In certain situations, however, fabric face masks are impractical. One such situation is with long distance runners. Long distance runners need to breathe easily while running which a fabric mask does not allow, additionally, runners pass many people along their path and have the chance of spreading Covid-19. The Capstone project was focused on creating an alternative to fabric face masks for long distance runners. The device was based off of a baseball cap and can easily fit on the user’s head while running. Tests were run on the final device to test air filtering abilities as well as user comfort while running. The end result was an alternative device for long distance runners to wear while running to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The STS paper focuses on the ethical treatment of garment workers and their relationships with sewing machinery, the garment industry, and consumers. The unethical treatment of garment workers is a prevalent problem around the world and affects not only the garment workers but also consumers and the garment industry. Current garment factory practices have garment workers working in bad conditions and for long hours with old machinery. The STS paper focuses on how the ethical treatment of garment workers would improve with new sewing machinery. It is argued that the ethical treatment of garment workers is closely tied to the ability of sewing machinery advancements to keep up with changes in demand from the garment industry. Compared to the Capstone project topic, the STS paper focuses more on relationships between the users of the technology and other players in the societal group.

In both of the papers introduced above, pieces of existing technology were analyzed and found lacking for the current needs of their users. For long distance runners, fabric face masks are not sufficient to deal with Covid-19 so a new technology was made. For garment workers, current sewing machinery is not sufficient to meet demands which leads to an increase in their unethical treatment. Overall, both of these projects have led to a better understanding of the need for user-oriented pieces of technology. In the future, I will keep in mind that pieces of technology are best designed when the user’s needs are kept first in order to best benefit them.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
sewing machine, actor network theory, respirator, factory worker, garment

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Gavin Garner
STS Advisor: Hannah Rogers and Bryn Seabrook
Technical Team Members: Emily Hubbard, Hannah Lothrop, Kallia Smith, Pascale Starosta

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