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NIOSH Announces Phase 1 Winners of the Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge

JULY 13, 2023

CONTACT: Stephanie Stevens,

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has selected 20 winners for the first phase of the Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge. The Challenge is a three-phase, $350,000 competition aimed at improving respirator fit evaluation. It seeks practical solutions that deliver real-time information on filtering facepiece respirator fit.

“Respirators are crucial to protect workers and the public from various respiratory hazards, including airborne infectious agents and wildfire smoke,” said Maryann D’Alessandro, Ph.D., director of NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory. “Many small or disadvantaged workplaces, however, lack the resources for fit testing, and workers at these underserved workplaces and the general public often wear respirators without knowing if they fit properly and provide the expected level of protection. The Challenge aims to address these issues by identifying practical solutions that deliver real-time information on respirator fit.”

The Phase 1 winners represent a diverse range of solution concepts. These include technologies such as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), infrared imagery and thermal monitoring, fabric-based sensor networks, light sensing (LED), and an app that will combine AI with facial recognition. These technologies were incorporated into approaches that would deliver immediate evaluation and feedback to end users about the fit of filtering facepiece respirators during use.

In Phase 1 of the Challenge participants submitted 10-page concept papers outlining their ideas to improve respirator fit testing. From the submissions, NIOSH selected 20 winners and awarded each $5,000.

In Phase 2 of the Challenge the winners will design prototypes based on their initial submissions. During Phase 2, up to 10 teams will be chosen to receive a portion of the $100,000 Phase 2 prize purse to help them build pre-production prototypes for NIOSH evaluation during Phase 3.

To learn more about the Phase 1 Challenge winners, please visit the Challenge website.

This Challenge is a collaboration between NIOSH, Capital Consulting Corporation, and the NASA Tournament Lab.

NIOSH is the federal institute that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. For more information about NIOSH, visit