Lee County students take on COVID-19 in science fair projects

Reporter: Corey Lazar Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
Freya Shah working on ultrasonic sensors. Credit: WINK News

A pair of Lee County students invented incredible projects for a science fair, all designed to solve some of the pandemic’s biggest problems.

Mason Huffman, 12, turned his dining room into a high-tech, laser-shooting, sound-listening chamber. The optical setup was used to test a mask’s ability to retain respiratory droplets. Mason not only designed the device to see which mask keeps in droplets the best, he wanted to see which lets out more sound when you speak.

“Inside the soundproof chamber, I had a mannequin head with a Bluetooth speaker installed,” Mason said.

All this before he can even drive a car. Mason tested a few kinds of mask: cotton, surgical and n-95. What did he discover?

“If you are in a less-crowded area, like a school classroom, I recommend to wear a surgical mask, because it is one of the best at restraining respiratory droplets, but it is also really good at sound transmission, which is helpful for class discussions between teachers and students,” Mason said.

Using the laser, he found the n-95 face mask did the best at holding in the most droplets.

Fifth-grader Freya Shah from Rayma C. Page Elementary was tired of people not social distancing.

“I made a hat that would beep when something comes closer than six feet,” Freya said. “I thought this would be a safer way to help people who don’t want to wear a mask stay six feet away.”

The ultrasonic sensors soldered together under the hat set off a loud buzzer if they detect anyone coming close.

These two students now have a baseline for their future experiments and inventions, and they hope other young kids are inspired.

“My project would influence kids to think of ideas and how it can impact the public, not only just yourself,” Mason said.

Freya Shah won the elementary division at the Thomas Edison Festival of Light Regional Inventors Fair. Mason Huffman recently learned he won first place in the State Science and Engineering Fair.

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