Student-designed tear gas safety mask wins top industrial design award
While the use of tear gas has long been banned in warfare (thanks to the 1925 Geneva Protocol), law enforcement agencies around the globe are still permitted to use this chemical weapon and others like it for riot control. Sometimes those riots are not riots at all, but peaceful gatherings and protests.
When widespread pro-democracy protests broke out in Hong Kong over the summer of 2019, tear gas became a favorite deterrent of Hong Kong police forces, with some agencies estimating that more than 2,000 canisters were being fired into crowds every day.
Halfway across the world, these events prompted a group of students in the Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design to take action. Using the protests in Hong Kong as a design challenge, industrial design students Alex Munro and Claudia Hasenfang, along with recent industrial design alumni Cole Powell and Ian Annis, created the Temporary Eye and Respiratory (T.E.A.R.) Mask.
The T.E.A.R. Mask is a pocket-sized anti-tear gas respirator that protects the eyes, nose, and mouth from the harmful effects of tear gas, which may include chemical burns, blindness, asphyxiation, and even death. Its design is compact enough fit in a pocket or purse, with a simple approach to use that can be deployed quickly and safely.
The result of almost a year’s worth of design iteration and prototype refinement, the T.E.A.R. Mask was recently recognized by the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) with a 2020 Industrial Design Excellence Award (IDEA), one of the discipline’s highest honors.
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