ASU Luminosity Lab team wins face mask challenge and $500,000 prize

A team of five ASU students won a worldwide competition asking participants to create the best face mask for fighting COVID-19

ASU's Luminosity Lab team was awarded first place in a $1 million XPRIZE competition titled "Next-Gen Mask Challenge" Tuesday for designing a face mask that overcame the top five barriers to mask-wearing, according to an XPRIZE survey.

The University team will receive $500,000 and the teams in second and third place will split the remaining half of the $1 million.

The Luminosity Lab team's five student members include Nikhil Dave, John Patterson, Katie Pascavis, Tarun Suresh and Jerina Gabriel, a junior studying graphic design.

With a goal to increase mask use across the globe, the XPRIZE competition welcomed individuals ages 15-24 to re-imagine masks used to protect against COVID-19 and consider the following criteria: "x-factor," most wearable, best for large-scale adoption, most manufacturable at low cost, accessibility and functionality. 

CATCH UP: ASU team made top 5 in $1 million XPRIZE mask challenge

The team's creation, which they coined the "floemask," features a second chamber that increases breathability and reduces heat to prevent glasses from fogging during use, according to Pascavis, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering. While common face masks have one chamber that filters the air from both the nose and mouth, the team's two-chambered mask separates the air from the nose and keeps it off the face. 

“I love your mask,” judge Garrett Gerson, CEO of Calamigos Ranch and founder of Variant, said at the Million Dollar Mask livestreamed finals Tuesday. “The bifurcated chamber is a really interesting design and that is currently something that isn't always thought of when people are making masks.”

"It was just the most euphoric feeling, this sort of validation that all the work we had put in is actually going to have a significant impact on fighting COVID," said Patterson, a second-year master's student studying electrical engineering. "To be able to hear from the judges and the XPRIZE team in general that they liked our product over 900-some others was really an incredible experience."

Before CNBC's Mad Money host Jim Cramer announced Team Luminosity Lab had won the grand prize, he informed the other top five competitors of their winnings, which included $250,000 for the Nigerian duo called "Team Naija Force," and the Maryland-based group "Team Polair."

As the winners of the competition, the Luminosity Lab team will be connected with manufacturing opportunities in the U.S. to reproduce the "floemask."

Despite their success, the work is not yet over, and the plans for the months ahead and the extent of the team's involvement in the manufacturing process is unclear.

"There's a lot more to do and to go before it has the impact it said it would have," said Suresh, a first-year master's student studying industrial engineering. "Although design went awesome — you know, I couldn't have asked for a better team and had a great competition — now it's development and there's still a lot of work left."

Over the six-month design process, Dave, a third-year student studying neuroscience and innovation in society, said he's most proud of the team's "power of collaborative thinking."

Team Luminosity Lab is excited for what the future holds and said they have a lot to be proud of, whether it was learning how to clearly communicate their ideas on deadline, working with companies like 3M or literally learning how to stitch and sew their prototypes by hand.

"What I'm most proud of is just taking all of our ideas — we're from many diverse backgrounds and sources — and helping to synthesize them together in one product that we can all stand behind," Patterson said. 


Reach the reporter at kkwilso5@asu.edu and follow @kaceywilson_ on Twitter. 

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