Understanding Effectiveness of Textiles as Virus Prevention Facemasks

Face masks have come to be a requirement for safe public interactions throughout our communities. How well the masks work and whether they can be washed and re-used depends on the textile material used and the construction and fit of the mask. During June 2021, we plan to create a set of educational activities that can be used with a broad range of audiences (elementary school to adult) to demonstrate the differences between various types of textile materials and why they have better or worse performance in face masks. The activities will include instructions and videos and we will also prepare test kits including example fabrics and simple tools for fabric testing. During July 2021, the materials will be used to lead activities with camp or community groups and evaluate the effectiveness of the demonstrations and materials. In the final weeks during August 2021, any adjustments to the materials will be made and additional kits assembled for future use.

Roles and responsibilities 

The student intern will be responsible for preparing demonstrations for assessment of fiber types (cotton, polyester, polypropylene), fabric constructions (woven, knit, non-woven), and effectiveness at blocking exhaled breath (cover factor). These will be based on techniques he has used in laboratory courses. The student intern will draft instructions and scripts for video demonstrations. Once these have been edited and approved by the faculty mentors, the student will film the video demonstrations. The student intern will also source sample materials for the demonstration kits and prepare kits. The student intern will work with county extension agents to lead activities in any viable settings either in person or via Zoom. Finally, the intern will gather feedback, record observations, and finalize the demonstrations, videos, and test kit contents.

Qualifications and previous coursework

This opportunity is available to students in Cornell University's College of Human Ecology.

The student intern must have completed 3 introductory textile courses:

  • FSAD 1350 +1360 lab: Fibers, Fabrics and Finishes 
  • FSAD 2370: Structural Fabric Design
  • FSAD 3320: Product Quality Assessment.

These courses will provide an understanding of textile materials and test methods. Additionally, the intern will participate in a research study assessing face mask materials with the Frey research group during the academic year.

Learning outcomes 

  • Communication of textile materials concepts via written, video, and activity modes
  • Designing activities for general audiences ranging from elementary school age to adult
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of activities, demonstrations, and materials and revising for improved impact