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Meriden girls win university public health challenge

Year 12 students, Nicole Jiang, Sophie Lin and Jessica Trinh

Motivated to spread awareness about the importance of wearing face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, seven Meriden Science Club members entered and won prizes in the University of Wollongong Community PPE Mask Challenge.

Following widespread debate regarding the compulsory requirement for members of the community to wear face masks in public spaces, the University challenged students to investigate the effective use, design and production of personal protective equipment. Students were then tasked with developing public health campaigns – intended for a teenage audience on social media platforms – that effectively communicated scientific research about the transmission of airborne particles and the importance of face masks in protecting the health of the community.

Year 10 students, Christine McKenzie, Mei Ling Chung, Jessica Tan and Gina Wang, won first prize in their category for their investigation into face mask construction, which included research on the efficacy of different materials. The girls designed a series of digital posters titled, “Just Mask it” that presented concise, evidence-based information that would help people select the most effective mask.

Christine said the group wanted to help combat the spread of misinformation about coronavirus on social media.

“When we began the challenge, people were starting to make their own masks to save money and reduce the environmental impact of single-use masks,” she said.

“However, there was a lot of misinformation regarding what is needed to create an effective mask. We wanted to present the facts in an interesting way to help prevent the community from putting themselves and others at risk.”

Mei Ling said the research stage was the most challenging part of the project.

“There is so much information available regarding the use of masks and what types of masks are effective. It was time-consuming to ensure we had the most correct, evidence-based information and to then condense the key facts into only a few slides.”

Year 12 students, Jessica Trinh, Sophie Lin and Nicole Jiang, also took out first prize in their category for their competition entry, a two-minute stop motion animation highlighting the importance of masks in combating community transmission of COVID-19.

Nicole said her team was inspired to take part in the project after ongoing debate over mandatory mask-wearing.

“Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen anti-mask protests occur all over the world, despite it being scientifically proven that masks are crucial in slowing down the spread of COVID-19. We wanted to make a difference in our community by encouraging young people to wear masks.”

Sophie said she enjoyed being able to combine science and creativity through the project.

“The challenge was a unique project for all of us. We had never made a stop-motion video before and ended up drawing over 200 individual frames by hand!”

Meriden’s winning teams will now have the opportunity to visit the UOW Makerspace, a creative space that provides access to tools and equipment for those with a passion for creating and inventing.

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