Fall 2020 Design I Final Competition

Section R: PEERK Innovations

Problem Statement:  How may we increase the effectiveness of athletic neck gaiters against COVID-19 microdroplets, especially during exercise?

Team Members: Ethan Brown, Parker Gorman, Riley Mullinix, Evan Perilloux and Kyle Sheridan

Instructor: Emily Sievers


  1. Hi Team,

    I like the well made prototype here, and I think you did a good job covering many areas of questions.

    Only question I have is – I have seen some neck gator/masks marketed, how does yours differ and stand out?

    • Hello Patricia Littman,

      Most neck gaiters were made without the intention of preventing particulates from escaping the fabric. They are usually one layer and are made up of 95% polyester and 5% elastane. These materials do almost nothing in stopping Covid from spreading. But many people have neck gaiters at home and thought that they would work. We decided to give them an effective option, using materials that are used in other types of masks that are recommended. As for other masks, neck gaiters are a lot more convenient when one is working out. With our elastic band, it is very difficult for the mask to fall off. If you need to take the mask off, you just have to pull it below your mouth onto your neck, so it also won’t get lost as easily. I hope I answered your question, if not, let us know and we’ll get right back to you.

      PEERK Innovations

  2. Thank you for your presentation! I was a bit confused which problem you were specifically solving, and would have liked to see more user research/customer discover upfront articulating the key pain points (e.g. convenience of removing the mask from the face when not in use? lack of breathability? lack of comfort in current design?) It also wasn’t clear whether the customer base targeting are those who already wear neck gaters and have complaint with the current design, or if the intent is to convert mask-wearers to gater-wearers? I do really like the presentation of the results of the testing (both the technical results and the user testing), however, would have liked to have seen these results presented in a more consistent way demonstrating ability to solve critical pain points.

    • Hi Stephanie Gravenor,

      Thanks for your questions, they are much appreciated!

      In regards to the first question:

      The specific question that we solved was how to increase the effectiveness of a neck gaiter against COVID-19 particle spread. That being said, it would have been very easy to throw together a solution that achieved this while taking away many novel characteristics of a neck gaiter, such as being breathable for working out or comfortable. Thus, through research at about a 6 different gyms and recreation centers, we determined that the users would have other criteria besides being COVID safe for which they would buy this product for. These main pain points include ensuring PEERK’s neck gaiter is at least as breathable as current designs, more comfortable (and specifically has a better fit at staying on one’s head while working out since a major problem is how people will let their neck gaiters slip in gyms, thus spreading the virus easier), being durable enough to surpass at least 30 heavy washes (to simulate about a year of washes; another point on this is after our testing, washing the neck gaiter does not impact the results of our testing in terms of breathability or COVID safety), and being no more expensive than alternatives. Thus, while the specific problem being solved was on increasing the COVID safety of neck gaiters by decreasing particle flow through the mask, stakeholder research outlined other needs/pain points which we could not forget about, outlined above (this I believe was also talked about in the slide on Design Criteria, but due to the brevity of the slide, I can understand the confusion).

      In regards to your second question:

      The customer base PEERK was specifically targeting were generally just gym-goers and athletes. This is because we ultimately just wanted to increase safety while working out on a practice field or within a gym. Nearly 40-50% (per stakeholder research) of gym-goers already wear a neck gaiter to the gym, and according to many gym managers, these people simply wear neck gaiters because they are the easiest PPE to wear and will not cause obstruction to breathing. They do not have a large issue with the current design, other than fit, but also many times do not realize that a neck gaiter is unsafe compared to many masks. So a primary target demographic would, indeed, be those who already wear neck gaiters because we want to increase the safety of neck gaiters for those who already wear them (unknowingly that they are unsafe), while also fixing a few novel complaints. That being said, there is still 50-60% of the population who wear masks working out. These are where most of the complaints come in because it is that much more difficult to work out in a regular cotton mask (both breathing and comfort wise). However, this demographic sector are usually the people who won’t wear neck gaiters as they are less safe. Therefore, PEERK’s intent would be to convert mask-wearers to gaiter-wearers when, at the very least working out, since PEERK has proven greater air flow, comfort, and fit, while maintaining the same level of COVID-safety; this being said, the PEERK neck gaiter because it does so well in deflecting COVID can be used as a complete replacement in society, but will begin being targeted just for working out, with future options to expand further into a broader demographic.

      I hope these answers clear up some of the questions you had and I would be happy to follow up further if needed.

      PEERK Innovation

  3. Thank you for addressing a very common issue (myself included)
    – How does your design compare to airflow/breathability of the user?
    – Did you compare the maintenance interval between your design and standard gaiters on the market? ie. your has more material, so potentially builds up with germs and bacteria sooner
    – What did you testing reveal regarding particle size and disease transmission? Any reason you stayed with a more cloth like material as opposed to an entirely non permeable substance?

    • Hi Daniel Travis,

      Thanks for your questions, they are much appreciated!

      In regards to the first question:

      Our design compares to airflow of the user in a positive way. This is to say that without a mask, the average resting Blood Oxygen Level is 97%, the average low exercise Blood Oxygen Level is 95%, and the average heavy exercise level (at altitude) is 89%. Overall, if possible, Blood Oxygen Levels should stay above 85% and preferably 90% (even though this is difficult during heavy exercise). PEERK ran a Blood Oxygen Test of users running with no mask, a current neck gaiter, and PEERK’s neck gaiter, since Blood Oxygen Level is a direct correlates to airflow. PEERK’s neck gaiter actually performed exactly the same as current neck gaiters on the market place, but when comparing it to just the user it self there is still a very minimal drop off. PEERK’s neck gaiter keeps Blood Oxygen Level at 97% on average when resting, 94% on average during a light workout, and 88% on average during a heavy workout. Thus, there is no more than a 1% drop in Blood Oxygen Level using PEERK’s neck gaiter, which in the larger scope of things is pretty much unnoticeable.

      In regards to your second question:

      We did not formally compare the maintenance interval between our design and standard gaiters on the market because of the fact that, per CDC guidelines, masks and gaiters should be washed after every use. If this standard is upheld, as long as you do not wear the neck gaiter for a unusually high amount of time, the maintenance interval won’t really change between our neck gaiter and market neck gaiters, providing no extra risk of contracting COVID-19. But, even for those who do not wash their PPE as regularly, PEERK’s neck gaiter should not have to be cleaned sooner. This is because the polycotton that was chosen for PEERK’s gaiter (as opposed to dri-fit), is a better electrostatic barrier, meaning that it is better at deflecting away COVID in an electromagnetic field so that the particles do not even reach the mask in the first place. Market neck gaiters are a poor electrostatic barrier meaning more particles will actually reach the mask. So even though PEERK’s neck gaiter contains around 2-3 times more material, the fact that it is a better electrostatic barrier means the actual COVID getting on the mask will be similar, if not less, than market alternatives, and will not change the maintenance interval.

      In regards to your third question:

      Unfortunately, due to a lack of money, PEERK Innovation was unable to run a test similar to Duke’s study from August regarding PPE and particle size (this used lasers, UV rays, and a bunch of other items outside the scope of the project). Obviously with further funding it would be beneficial to run this test to further gain ideas about particle size and disease transmission through PEERK’s neck gaiter. That being said, in the Flame Test, we simulated disease transmission with air coming through a tube. Then, we put different alternatives and PEERK’s neck gaiter up to the air and put a flame on the other side of the PPE, that way we could measure flame displacement as caused by air/disease transmission. Even though this is not perfect, it gives a relative way to measure how good our neck gaiter is at blocking air both mechanically and electrostatically. Most cotton masks (the highest quality masks on the market) had a flame displacement around .150 inches when air was pushed through it, but PEERK’s neck gaiter had an average flame displacement of .106 inches. This means, relatively speaking, PEERK’s neck gaiter is around 50% better at reducing spread of air and disease through the mask then other alternatives. As for why we stuck with a cloth like material, is because these non permeable substances are less feasible. The main non permeable substances considered were glass, plastic, and metal. In some of these cases, such as metal, making a neck gaiter would be just too expensive and would be difficult to get to fit to one’s head (among many other smaller issues), meaning it would not be safe, comfortable, or even viable for a business to make profit off of. Non permeable substances such as plastic meanwhile have issues such as being very unbreathable, even though it would fit to a head well. So, overall, while a non permeable substance would be the best in terms of mitigating disease transmission, it would have issues with a lot of other criteria including cost, air flow, comfort and fit, and even durability (how it washes), which would make it likely that this would not be commercially viable for customers to buy. Balancing all of these criteria was ultimately the key to sticking with a cloth like fabric.

      I hope these answers clear up some of the questions you had and I would be happy to follow up further if needed.

      PEERK Innovation

  4. Good morning, Daniel,

    -Breathability/Airflow: Our design is highly breathable; use of the gaiter during extended bouts of intense physical exercise produced < 1% reduction in blood oxygen content. This was a strong indicator that the design poses little challenge to breathability. Stakeholder feedback corroborated this, with 100% of gym-goers stating the design was comfortable during athletic use, and 80% stating they would choose our design over their current PPE.

    -Maintenance Interval: Standard gaiters are actually very poor PPE for COVID, precisely because they do not capture and contain COVID particulate. Many studies have concluded that the high elasticity and loose weave of standard gaiters presents nearly no filtration of the user's breath. "Your has more material, so potentially builds up with germs and bacteria sooner": This is by design. Standard cotton face masks are employed to capture potential COVID-infected particulate as it leaves the user's respiratory tract. This prevents the spread of the disease to those around them. Thus, our design has been optimized to capture as much COVID particulate as possible; i.e large quantity of fabric, electrostatic filtration, ribbed filter for increased surface area, etc. Considering this, our gaiter presents a superior capacity for catching COVID at the source, when compared to standard face masks gaiters.

    -Particle size: Our research into face mask construction indicated that cotton fabrics with thread-per-inch counts (TPI) in the range of 550-700 are fine enough to effect mechanical and electrostatic filtration, while also permitting easy breathability. The research was also clear that elastic materials (which are common in standard gaiters) offer little in the way filtration, as their weave opens up too much when stretched over facial contours. Thus, cloth-like materials were categorically superior. From there, we selected polycotton shells and cotton filters because 1.) They are both highly effective filtration fabrics 2.) When placed in close contact, this fabric combination produces a slight electrostatic current, which acts to bind particulate to the gaiter fabric, and 3.) They are cheap and familiar. A non-permeable substance such as rubber or silicone does not filter airflow; merely redirects it. Indeed, this is why no standard PPE is constructed from such materials.

    Thanks for the questions, Daniel! Please reach out if you have follow-up questions. Take care!