Experience

The people behind the masks

Kate Ngan '23
 

Ngans created, donated face masks

 

November 11, 2020

Kate Ngan ’23 (Hong Kong) is the daughter of Calvin Ngan ’92 and the niece of Sally Ngan ’91. The Ngan families donated the face masks were provided to students, faculty, and staff at the opening of the school year. Kate wrote the following story for the latest issue of The Vedette on how the masks were created.

The custom-made Culver face masks have been a common sight on campus since students, faculty, and staff returned to the boarding school this fall during the COVID-19 pandemic. But have you ever wondered who provided the masks and how the Culver masks came to be?

It started in April, when there was a shortage of masks in Hong Kong. It was problematic because health care workers, who were at risk every day, did not have access to the protective gear they needed. The news constantly showed videos of people waiting in massive lines for masks outside medical supply stores. This is when the Ngan family decided to make reusable masks for the citizens who are not at immediate risk, unlike the frontline workers. This way, the frontline workers could receive the medical masks they needed.

Making reusable masks is not as easy as it seems. There are many steps, including considering the way to provide anti-bacterial functions, using computer aided designs, selecting the fitting for different face shapes, and selecting the right fabric, color, elastic bands, and nose wire.

Fabric selection

Out in the market, there are many different materials that can be used for making a reusable mask. Sally Ngan ’91, said. Along with the light-weight cotton fabric, the Ngan family added a non-toxic water-repellent outer layer.

With that layer added to the mask, it creates a barrier that protects the person from respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing.

Adding the Culver logo

One of the hardest parts of creating the masks was deciding how to print the Culver logo. There are many different options, including: embroidery, oil base printing, and water base printing. Water base printing is most commonly used, since the print will stay on for a longer period of time. However, since the mask is water repellent, it is impossible to use water-based print for the Culver logo.

Therefore, the Ngans were left with the possibilities of either embroidery or oil-based printing. By experimenting with the both embroidery and oil-based printing, the Ngans noticed that oil-based printing fell off after about six washings. They decided to use embroidery, which meant the Culver logo was stitched onto the fabric.

Modern technology made color selection a lot easier. The Ngan family used a computer-aided design, which gave them an idea of what the masks would look like before they were made. They chose the color of the logo and the background according to the Culver brand guidelines. The size of the Culver logo also needed to be decided. The Culver logo was at first 1.5 centimeters, but the Ngans realized that it was too small and changed it to 3.5 cm.

Everyone received seven color-coded face masks at the beginning of the school year.

Antibacterial functions

The Culver masks were proven in laboratory testing to be effective against COVID-19. There are several chemicals that have anti-viral functions, such as ionic copper, ionic silver and organosilicon, and the Ngan family had a hard time choosing which antiviral chemical they should use on the masks.

Copper is the most effective chemical, however, long-term exposure to copper ion can be harmful to people’s health. Silver is not as effective, because the virus or bacteria can become immune to it quickly. In the end, the Ngan family chose organosilicon. It is not only proven to be effective against COVID-19, but it is also safe and non-toxic to the human body.

“This is the most interesting part of this project,” said Calvin Ngan ’92. Organosilicon is a carbon silicon-based chemical that forms a structure of sharp points that is invisible and harmless to human beings. The sharp points can puncture the membrane of bacteria, virus, fungus, and mold, killing these pathogens when it touches the surface of organosilicon.

At the final stage, the Ngans found a laboratory and tested their masks against COVID-19. Since there are only a few labs in the world that carry COVID-19, it was a challenge to find a lab. However, they eventually did their COVID-19 test with MSL in the United Kingdom. The lab proved that the mask fabric is more than 90% effective against COVID-19 and more than 98% effective against bacteria and molds.

Wanted the best for students

Sally and Calvin both wanted the best for Culver and know that the “Culver experience would not be the same through Zoom classes and meetings.” From this, they asked themselves, “What can we do to give students and faculty the best protection without affecting surgical mask suppliers to the medical staff and frontline workers?”

Overall, the Ngans are very grateful for the opportunity to help protect everyone at Culver.

"It is our pleasure to help Culver to fight the pandemic. It brought back many great memories from our Culver days reflecting on how Culver nurtured our growth to shape who we are today," said Sally Ngan. They were able to rise to the occasion, and answer that question, by providing Culver students and faculty with reusable masks that have helped prevent the spread of the infection on campus.

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