SIGD “Problem Solves” Fabrication for Face Mask Initiative

SIGD Staff “Problem Solve” Fabrication Process for Auburn’s Face Mask Initiative

Auburn’s ongoing initiative to produce more than 10,000 protective face masks is based in the Office of the Vice President for University Outreach, under the supervision of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, or OLLI. The initiative has brought together the support and hard work of community volunteers and a number of offices and academic units across campus.

As part of a process coordinated by Scott Bishop, Director of OLLI, nine prototypes for the masks were developed by Curriculum and Teaching Professor Christine Schnittka, then tested by Fred Kam, director of the Medical Clinic. After Kam had approved the most effective mask design, Schnittka produced a pattern for cutting the pieces as well as directions for sewing, wearing and caring for the masks. She filmed an instructional video for assembling and sewing the masks that was then edited and produced by Bruce Kuerten, director of the Media Production Group.

When Clark Lundell, head of the School of Industrial and Graphic Design, or SIGD, learned of the initiative he suggested that the patterns for the masks could be cut more quickly and efficiently in the fabrication shops at Wallace Hall.  SIGD staff members Chad Bailey, David Gowan and Robert Capps developed a system using laser cutters that allows them to cut 1,000 masks a day, a significantly higher number than the masks that could be cut by hand.

“Those guys in the SIGD shops are amazing,” said Bishop. “They’re happy to help and they’re real problem solvers, always trying to figure out how to make the production process more efficient. They’re absolute wonders!”  According to Lundell, the process designed by Bailey, Gowan and Capps incorporates principles and best practices for material handling, assembly, fabrication and laser cutting technologies typically used by industrial designers.

After the mask parts have been cut in the SIGD shops, volunteers take them to the OLLI headquarters at Sunny Slope, where they are counted out and divided into packets of ten, including instructions for assembling and sewing. The packets are left on the porch of the house and picked up by volunteer sewists from the community, who return them after they’ve been assembled. The masks are then distributed by Outreach Global to those who have expressed a need.

According to Bishop, “There have been days when we had people lined up in the driveway waiting to pick up the mask kits. Practicing social distancing, of course!”

The people, office and units that have participated in and supported the project, which is a veritable showcase of collaboration, include University Outreach (Outreach Global and OLLI), the Medical Clinic, Auburn University Foundation, the Media Production Group, the Department of Curriculum and Teaching, the School of Industrial and Graphic Design, and community volunteers. More information on Auburn’s facemask initiative can be found at: and For more information about the initiative and to learn how you can volunteer, visit or call Scott Bishop at OLLI at Auburn at 334-844-3146.

Photography credit: Clark Lundell