2 Chandler students on $1M-winning ASU project team - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

2 Chandler students on $1M-winning ASU project team

January 25th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
2 Chandler students on $1M-winning ASU project team

By Herminia Rincon
Guest Writer

Two Chandler residents were on a five-member team at Arizona State University that recently won the million-dollar XPRIZE Next-Gen Mask Challenge to redesign the face masks used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by making them more comfortable, functional and affordable.

The contest drew nearly 1,000 entries from young innovators in more than 70 countries around the world.

Katie Pascavius and Tarun Suresh, both of Chandler, were on the team.

“It hasn’t been about money or even recognition for this team,” said team leader Nikhil Dave of Ahwatukee. “It’s been about doing what we can to impact our communities and to solve pressing challenges as they arise.”

The contest invited young adults ages 15 to 24 from around the world to shift the cultural perspective around mask-wearing behavior by developing the next generation of surgical-grade consumer masks.

The biggest problem the ASU team cracked was masks fogging up eyeglasses.

Their Floemask features a bifurcated chamber design in which air exhaled from the nose is kept in a separate chamber from the face and mouth. Your face stays cooler, the air you breathe is fresher, and the flow of air stays away from glasses where it would otherwise cause fogging.

“We went through several design iterations, trying to create something that doesn’t fog your glasses but doesn’t leave hot air on the face is not an easy task for sure,” Dave said. “But I think the other thing is to ensure that whatever we’re creating also has to be breathable, but also maintain the filtration efficiency needed to be an effective mask and preventing any sort of contagious pathogen.”

The mask was also designed to lift up easily for eating and drinking. See it in action in the team’s submission video.

XPRIZE is a nonprofit organization that uses global competitions to crowdsource solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. The contest is sponsored by Marc Benioff, CEO and co-founder of Salesforce, and Jim Cramer, the host of “Mad Money” on CNBC.

The Sun Devils won $500,000 of the purse; two additional teams will split the remainder. They will be connected to rapid manufacturing opportunities in the U.S. to accelerate production of their new mask designs. The ASU team has CAD files and fabric templates ready for mass-scale creation.

The team comes from ASU’s Luminosity Lab, an interdisciplinary research and development lab driven by a hand-selected team of high-performing students.

“I am incredibly proud of our students,” said the lab’s executive director, Mark Naufel. “These remarkable students competed against thousands of other teams internationally, knowing that they could contribute novel ideas for a unique mask, designed to resolve issues that they had personally experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Four years ago, Luminosity was created with an aspiration to impact society and a belief that our students are capable of achieving anything. By enabling our students with the agency to lead their own research and development efforts, they have continued to demonstrate their ability to innovate through the development of this prize-winning, next-generation mask that has the potential to impact countless lives.

“It is an honor to work with the students of ASU’s Luminosity lab, and I have no doubt that these students will go on to be the leaders and innovators of this generation.”

Dave credited ASU’s approach to innovation for their success.

“If it wasn’t for ASU, frankly, we wouldn’t think the way that we do,” he said. “And I don’t think we would even be in a situation where we could apply for something like this. And so we’re grateful to ASU as well, and we’re happy to show off the fact that we are No. 1 in innovation.”

Dave is a student regent on the Arizona Board of Regents and an undergraduate earning a double major in neuroscience and innovation in society. Katie is an undergraduate mechanical engineering student and Tarun is a graduate industrial engineering student.

The Luminosity Lab team also includes John Patterson of Tempe, a graduate electrical engineering student, and Jerina Gabriel of Kingman, an undergraduate graphic design student.

Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American Research University, creating an institution that is committed to access, excellence and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes.

As the prototype for a New American University, ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.