When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Philadelphia region, Tate Park ’21 knew he could use his skills for good. That’s why he invented a special clip for the N95 mask, making it safer, reusable, and a lower contamination risk for doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals.
He created the clip after talking with his father, an ophthalmologist at Mid Atlantic Retina, about the issues surrounding extended wear and reuse of the N95. A shortage in personal protective equipment (PPE) across the nation has led hospitals and doctor’s offices to ration the masks for weekly rather than daily use. According to recommended guidance from the CDC, “the most significant risk [of reusing the N95 mask] is of contact transmission from touching the surface of the contaminated respirator.” The more a doctor touches the mask to remove or adjust it, the higher the risk.
The N95 mask has a band that stretches around the back of the head to secure it in place. It’s difficult to remove and the likelihood of contamination is high when pulling it over one's head. With reuse or extended use, the band can stretch out over time and the mask does not fit every head shape. Tate’s new clip eliminates these issues by providing a safe option for mask removal. “The clip takes away the need to lift it over your head. Instead, you can unhook the clip from the back and easily take the mask off without touching the respirator,” he says.
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Currently, Tate’s clip is in the trial phase and has positive reviews, but there are improvements to be made. “I gave my dad 15 masks to distribute to his colleagues. Then, I sent out a user survey, asking for feedback,” he says. After working through prototypes and gathering answers from the survey, Tate will reassess the design for possible enhancements. “If the survey shows that people find the mask uncomfortable, I would tweak the design to make it more ergonomic. Another change I’m anticipating is a small adjustment to the amount of force required to open and close the clip.”
Once the clip works effectively, he would like to share the blueprints more widely. “There’s a large 3D printing community where people can share design files around the world,” says Tate. Ultimately, his main goal is to make sure people have access to safe, reusable PPE.