On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backtracked on a February claim that masks were ineffective in battling the novel coronavirus, sending folks scrambling to buy or make them. The CDC has guidelines for making no-sew masks, but for North Carolina’s resource-strapped healthcare workers, those solutions won’t cut it. Local hospitals have asked for mask donations—even handmade ones. Here are two stories of North Carolina twentysomethings (both with ties to N.C. State’s engineering programs) working to fill the gaps.

Aiman Hussein, 21

Rural areas are the last to be affected by the coronavirus. They’re also the least prepared. 

Burke County has seen 63 reported cases and three deaths. Aiman Hussein, a Morganton resident and N.C. State student, saw a way he could help.

Hussein began 3-D printing in high school through Western Piedmont Community College. In college, he started ADH Creations as a way to explore design outside of college. Using his own 3-D printer, he mostly worked on interior design projects. But with a pandemic on the horizon and a return home after N.C. State went virtual, he saw an opportunity to help medical professionals in his hometown. 

At first, he tried making a flat mask that would fit over a PPE mask to keep it in place. But as supplies decreased, he reached out to the 3-D printing community for ideas. That’s how he created the Maveric-1, a mask with an interchangeable filtration system that can be molded to the wearer’s face—a key difference between N95 respirators and surgical masks that affects safety the most.

“Of course you have the N95 masks that are the best for the cause,” Hussein says. “But when that’s no longer available, what do you go to?”

On March 31, Hussein began crowdfunding. With $3,600 raised so far, he’s been able to create 100 masks and distribute 50 of them. To keep up with demand, he has eight 3-D printers running every day in his family home, making 30 to 40 masks a day.

View this post on Instagram

I’m putting my Textile Engineering degree to use in a way I couldn’t have predicted. With some motivation from my roommate @nellcrosby and my parents, I constructed a layered and washable face mask with some fabric and elastic from my craft pile. “Research from MIT and Stanford has shown that when we speak, little saliva micro-droplets come flying out of our mouths, 6ft or more.” – Jeremy Howard. I’ll be making these cloth masks to cheaply sell to anyone wanting to protect themselves from others, protect others from themselves (many people are carriers without showing any symptoms!), and ease the public demand for medical-grade supplies. It’s super important that we all start wearing masks in public to slow the spread of coronavirus, but if you need more convincing here’s an article from the Washington Post: “Simple DIY masks could help flatten the curve.” https://apple.news/AD4MTqbuvTAeiWSccI0HjZg Please DM me or my new business partner @nellcrosby if interested & for pricing details. Stay safe, my friends.

A post shared by Ryen Frazier (@ryenmfrazier) on

Ryen Frazier, 23

Ryen Frazier kept getting texts from her parents.

“Have you gotten a mask? Have you made a mask?” 

The grad student grew up sewing for herself and friends and studied textile engineering at N.C. State. With some scraps of fabric and elastic left over from a previous project, she hand-stitched a yellow mask with a flap to insert a filter. 

When she showed her roommates, they encouraged her to create more. So she did what you do when the world is in the midst of a pandemic and “word-of-mouth” no longer exists: She posted on Instagram. She only expected a couple of friends to ask for the $5 masks. Now, she says, she’s gotten orders for “upward of 530,” and the number keeps growing. 

Frazier says she and her roommate/new business partner Nell Crosby began working every day to keep up with demand, but they’re focusing their efforts on health care workers. While Crosby doesn’t sew, they’ve developed a workflow where she cuts fabric and Frazier stitches the pieces together. Their roommate Rachel will take breaks during her full-time job and join them on the sewing machine she brought from her parents’ house.

Frazier says they’ve been able to send out 208 masks and have asked buyers to provide feedback so they can fix design flaws. They hope to help their community more as the pandemic continues.

 “I know that this project is going to end,” Frazier says. “It’s not one of the types of businesses that starts, and that’s the beginning, and you go on. I guess we just adjust based on how people react.” 

Contact digital content manager Sara Pequeño at spequeno@indyweek.com. 

DEAR READERS, WE NEED YOUR HELP NOW MORE THAN EVER. Support independent local journalism by joining the INDY Press Club today. Your contributions will keep our fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle, coronavirus be damned.