Development of a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) for Runners; An Examination of Cultural Attitudes Toward Mask Use Through Social Construction of Technology

Smith, Kallia, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Ferguson, Sean, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Garner, Gavin, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia

The goal of this project was to address mask use from two different perspectives. The STS research focused on the values held by different social groups that might lead those groups to wear or not wear masks. The technical research focused on only one social group, runners, and the creation of a powered filter mask for running. The goal of both aspects of the project was to encourage mask use, since increased mask use has been shown to reduce both the spread of COVID-19 and mortality due to COVID-19.
The goal of the technical research was to create a comfortable, low-cost powered air purifying respirator. A mask was designed and built that uses a breath sensor to detect the user’s breathing and filter air into the mask when the user breathes in, and out of the mask when the user breathes out. This design is more comfortable than a cloth mask and is less expensive than other powered air purifying respirators. It also provides greater protection from COVID-19, since other powered air purifying respirators only filter air into the mask, while the new design filters air both in and out of the mask.
The goal of the STS research was to use the ideas of technology domestication and social construction of technology to define values and attitudes toward mask use among different social groups. The United States and South Korea, two countries with different social values and rates of mask use, were used as a case study. This information was used to recommend strategies to encourage mask use in the United States, where rates of mask use are lower. Based on the fact that Americans tend to value individualism and that the United States is in an earlier phase of mask domestication than South Korea, it was found that approaches that emphasize the individual benefits of mask use are more likely to be effective.
This research attempted to address multiple reasons for resistance to mask use: the technical research provided a solution for the physical discomfort of mask wearing, while the STS research recommended strategies for overcoming social reasons for resistance to mask use. Mask wearing is important to public health, and the reasons for adoption of or resistance to masks are multifaceted and can’t be addressed with just one approach.
I would like to thank my capstone teammates, Emily Hubbard, Hannah Lothrop, Kimmie Louie, and Pascale Starosta, my capstone adviser, Gavin Garner, and my STS adviser, Sean Ferguson, for their advice, guidance, and support.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Domestication, SCOT, COVID-19, Mask, SolidWorks, Phototransistor

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering

Technical Advisor: Gavin Garner

STS Advisor: Sean Ferguson

Technical Team Members: Emily Hubbard, Hannah Lothrop, Kimmie Louie, Pascale Starosta

Issued Date: