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Protective face covering

Unmask the Problem: For Students


Take the Pre-Assessment first.

Then, follow the Explore, Explain, Elaborate steps below.


In addition to sign-language, many deaf and hard-of-hearing people depend on lip-reading and facial expressions to communicate. Since typical masks cover over half of the face, this poses significant challenges.

Watch the 2-minute news video: “Face Mask Recommendations Pose New Challenges For Deaf And Hard Of Hearing Community,” and answer the following questions in your notebook or discuss in small groups:

  1. Based on what you heard in the video, write a sentence that describes the problem that masks cause for deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
  2. What is one solution that was offered at the end of the video?

Include these answers in your notes and reflections to upload as part of your artifacts (assignments).

Watch the 3-minute video: “First fully transparent surgical mask about to go into production,” and answer the following questions in your notebook or discuss in small groups:

  1. In the video, the scientists and engineers talk about how important empathy is for medical care. What is empathy?
  2. How does a typical mask affect ability demonstrate empathy?
  3. Write a statement that defines the problem the scientists and engineers are trying to solve.
  4. At the 2-minute mark, in addition to a transparent material, the engineer describes the design constraints. List the three items she shares.

BONUS: Now that you’ve watched these videos, what additional ideas do you have to make a mask that addresses some of challenges you identified?


Design thinking is a methodology for creative problem solving. Watch the 2-minute video: “What Is Design Thinking?” and answer the following questions in your notebook or discuss in small groups:

  1. What are the five steps to design thinking, and what does each mean to you? Please describe each of the steps.
  2. Describe how the scientists and engineers who designed the first fully transparent medical mask (see previous step) used the design-thinking process to solve the problem of a mask that blocks vision of the face. design thinking model


We are all problem-solvers! Engineers solve problems that make a world of difference and help shape our future. How could you use the design thinking process to solve a problem? Describe in detail how you could work through each step to create a solution for a meaningful problem. If possible, create a prototype (with materials on hand), test it, and make any necessary revisions. (If you’d like to use the design thinking process to make improvements to a mask, you can.)

Take a picture of your prototype and upload it. Or submit your idea, sketch, and notes on your prototype as part of your artifacts (assignments).

The most important part of this exercise is NOT prototype development, but more so the empathize, define, and ideate portions of the process. You should prepare a brief report, or show in your notebook, how you moved from each stage of the process to the next.


Engineers are creative and collaborative problem solvers that make a world of difference and help shape our future. Engineering is essential for our health, happiness, and safety!

Visit the following webpage and select an engineering discipline that looks most interesting to you. Explore what they do, how much they earn, and the key requirements. Share with a classmate the types of problems that they solve, and why it is an interesting career.

Upload as part of your artifacts (assignments).

(what the students produce to indicate completion)

  • Pre-Assessment
  • Reflections and notes from the engage, explore, and explain sections.
  • Applying the design-thinking model to solve a problem. Upload your answers after each video, notes, design sketches, problem solving steps.
  • Activity Assessment

Additional resources


Click here to take the vocabulary exercises for this activity at Quizlet.

(optional) Submit a link to your artifact

If you are sharing a link from the Cloud, click here, paste it into the field, and hit the button to submit.

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