Community PPE Mask Challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in changes in all aspects of our lives. Together with social distancing, health professionals are now advising that individuals in hotspot areas should wear a face mask to slow community transmission. These decisions are underpinned by science and technology research. The UOW Makerspace has set out the following challenges for NSW secondary students to support the development of STEM knowledges in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learning Intentions

The goal of the UOW Makerspace Face Mask Challenge is for students to learn about the science behind effective use, design and production of personal protective equipment (PPE). The challenges outlined below, involve researching, communicating and making to explore their understanding in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

We encourage teachers to choose one or all of the challenges. You could even use a jigsaw approach and assign small groups to different challenges.

Challenge 1: What makes an effective face mask?

Many makers are creating home-made masks in response to increased demand from the COVID-19 pandemic, but are all masks created equally? Do they offer the same kinds of protection and what are the environmental impacts of their rising production?

To begin this challenge, conduct an investigation into effective face mask construction. What is the science behind airborne transmission of particles? What sort of materials and considerations go into making an effective mask?


Challenge 2: Effective use of face masks

There has been much recent debate surrounding the implementation of masks, partly due to the mixed health messages the public receives about their use and effectiveness. This leads to many people asking whether a face mask can offer increased protection from COVID-19? What procedures maximize protection and ensure the most effective use of face masks?

To start this challenge, conduct some research into effective face mask usage. You might like to use these links provided in the resource package, or additional sources of your own finding.


Challenge 3: Face mask design

The Australian Government is currently encouraging the use of face masks and coverings when in areas of high-community transmission, or where social distancing is not possible. This is particularly important for the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, or those with medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses, as the effects of COVID-19 are likely to be more severe for these patients.

What does an effective face mask look like? How can a mask be produced at home from available materials? What design offers the best protection against airborne transmissions?

This challenge requires you to design and produce a face mask that helps to protect wearers against airborne transmissions and aerosols such as COVID-19.


Challenge 4: Face mask production

What does it take to make a large number of effective face masks for distribution? What materials and methods are effective for production on a larger scale? How can designs be altered to suit the needs of children and adults?

Use your own research-informed face mask design (connecting with Challenge 3) or the UOW Makerspace design (available through the website) to create face masks to be distributed to vulnerable members of your community. Consider research you may have undertaken that looks at effective designs, materials and production methods to develop PPE that can be made on a larger scale, while still providing necessary protection.

To begin this challenge, decide on a design that could be made on a large-scale and choose appropriate materials and methods for production.



We received a number of wonderful submissions showcasing the talent of young makers from schools in the Illawarra and beyond. The winners of the challenges were:

Students at Merdian School for challenge 1 & 2.

Students at Dapto High School for challenges 3 & 4.

Congratulations Dapto High School and Merdian! We look forward to seeing some of your students for an excursion with us in 2021!


Register for future challenges

If you are interested in participating in the 2021 challenge register your interest.