High school students lead ‘Maskathon’ during remote summer program

Due to COVID-19, this year’s Management & Technology Summer Institute (M&TSI), switched to remote learning for 94 dedicated high school students interested in the intersection of engineering and business. M&TSI is a for-credit summer program for rising high school juniors and seniors that provides the unique opportunity to learn from Penn Engineering and Wharton faculty and TAs, along with a robust curriculum centered on problem solving, product development and creativity.

Face of high school student wrapped in a paper face covering mask with sensors attached that are glowing green.
One student’s “Smile Mask” used a combination of sensors and LED lights to promote social distancing. Get too close and the green smile switches to a red frown. (Image: Penn Engineering)

During this year’s remote program, students took part in a “Maskathon,” an extracurricular social event in which students spent two days developing tech-integrated face masks. They created their mask prototypes at home, using a variety of materials to upgrade simple cloth coverings with new, interactive features. Integrating electronics with everyday materials like bubble wrap and printer paper, their masks were creative and unique takes on the essential pandemic accessory. While students were not required to develop masks specifically for COVID-19, several students chose to build in features that could help stop the spread.

Maskathon requirements were simple: Students were required to combine the engineering skills they had learned during the program to create face masks that served a specific purpose. They had one day to brainstorm their ideas and another to build the circuits and complete a prototype.

While the Maskathon was meant to be a social event more than a competition, Leslie Birch, laboratory resources coordinator for the Detkin Lab, and Kshitiz Garg, a junior in systems engineering and finance at Penn and an Engineering TA for M&TSI, identified five masks that stood out based on their creativity, complexity, and product potential.

This story is by Izzy Lopez. Read more at Penn Engineering.