White House Office of Science and Technology Policy recognizes UConn’s indoor air quality plan to combat COVID-19

UConn health nurse practitioner Marina Creed’s cross-campus self-service indoor air purifier project continues to gain momentum — all the way to the White House.

Creed patients at UConn Health’s Multiple Sclerosis Center are more susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19. Driven by her role as a clinician and parent, she launched a cross-campus public health initiative last year to bring so-called “Corsi-Rosenthal Boxes” into public school classrooms.

On September 9th, Marina Creed of APRN helped fifth graders at Noah Webster MicroSociety Magnet School in Hartford and their teacher Mary LaFountain make air purifiers. On September 8, 2022, the finished air purifier “Air Force One” was delivered to the White House in Washington, DC in September. September 9, 2022 (Photo by Peter Morenus/UConn).

These boxes are a simple mix of readily available supplies that can be assembled in minutes. The components — a box fan, folded air filter panels, cardboard and tape — add up to less than the cost of a trip to Washington, D.C., where Creed told the Biden administration’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) ) provided a DIY UConn team and Hartford schoolchildren’s air purifiers.

On Sept. 9, she and Kristina Wagstrom, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering in the UConn School of Engineering, visited the fifth-grade science class at Hartford’s Noah Webster Microsocial Magnet School, where they demonstrated a STEM curriculum in which Includes assembly of two DIY purifiers.

One, decorated in the school’s color, red, remains in the classroom; the other, decorated as “Air Force One” and signed by the class, will head to the White House the next day.

Kristina Wagstrom (right), associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering in the UConn School of Engineering, and Marina Creed (left) of APRN ask fifth-graders at the Noah Webster MicroSociety Magnet School in Hartford about air quality and pollution on Sept. 9 . August 8, 2022 (Photo by Peter Morenus/UConn).

“This is a unique opportunity for our team to showcase this important intervention for Hartford Public Schools students to the Office of Science and Technology Policy and to present ‘Air Force One’ to the team at the Executive Office of the President ,” Creed said. “It’s great to see the children’s STEM curriculum come to life. The unit is located in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and we hope it makes its way into the West Wing for the President and First Ladies to enjoy.”

DIY air filtration kits have been shown to be comparable to manufactured portable HEPA filters.

“It’s great to see how excited students are about something that can make a real difference,” Wagstrom said.

Creed said their UConn team’s research included the use of state-of-the-art cloud-based air quality monitoring sensors to capture key data showing the effectiveness of interventions in improving indoor air quality in real-world settings. The sensors, called MODULAIR-PM, are provided by Quant-AQ, an air quality startup based in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Marina Creed of APRN helps fifth-graders at Noah Webster’s Microsocial Magnet School in Hartford build Air Force One air purifiers. August 8, 2022. (Photo by Peter Morenus/UConn).

“The evidence is clear – cleaner indoor air makes students healthier and happier. We are excited to learn more about how these students are putting this evidence into action to benefit their communities,” said Dr. Erica Kimmerling, Senior Advisor for Public Engagement at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “The ‘Air Force One’ air filter will not only help provide clean air for the staff of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, but will be a great conversation starter to help spread the word about how people can improve their indoor air quality.”

Creed is honored to present the device to the White House OSTP along with Kimberly Prather, a leading advocate for the DIY Corsi-Rosenthal intervention, UCSD and Scripps Institution of Oceanography Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry. Prather also serves as a science advisor to President Biden. President Biden’s OSTP member who received the gift was Dr. Kimmerling. Georgia Lagudas, Senior Advisor in Biotechnology and Biodefense, Ph.D. Stephanie Guerra, Assistant Director of National Security and Biodefense.

Collaborating with West and East Coast researchers, Ph.D. Kimberly Prather of USCD and APRN Marina Creed of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Connecticut Health on Sept. 9 put together the “Air Force One” DIY Corsi- Rosenthal Box Air Purifier Gift to White House OSTP. September 9, 2022 (Image courtesy of Marina Creed).

In the spring, the Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted a webinar titled “Clearing the Air for COVID-19.” Creed sent an email to the office explaining her indoor air filtration project, and in response received an invitation to a 30-minute briefing. As a culmination of the briefing, Creed, of his hometown of Washington, D.C., offered to bring a box made by schoolchildren in the community. The response to this was an invitation to the White House for a formal delivery.

“I’m honored that our work has received attention at the federal level, and I’m eager to see what our program will do to improve public health broadly through low-tech, low-cost, energy-efficient STEM programs that fifth-graders can do,” Creed said. “I’m relieved to learn that ordinary citizens like me can embrace ideas inspired by direct patient care and continue to push forward my vision that every classroom in Connecticut should have these ideas, if not nationally. Inside. It’s great to know that this initiative we’re working on has the federal government behind it.”

Support doesn’t just come from the federal government. In August, the University of Connecticut Foundation announced a $300,000 grant through Balvi’s cryptocurrency, an investment and direct endowment fund established by Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin to support indoor air quality initiatives. In May, Creed was recognized by one of the University of Connecticut’s 2022 Provost’s Community Engagement Scholarship Excellence Awards.

These filtration systems are named after their creators, Richard Corsi, Dean of the UC Davis School of Engineering, and Jim Rosenthal, CEO of Tex-Air Filters in Texas. Since last year, Creed has been working to get them into Connecticut schools and teach students how to use them as part of their science and health curriculum.

Impressed by the students who helped create Air Force One at the Webster Magnet School.

“We’ve made an air filter that helps carry away germs and germs, and it’s very useful because now and earlier this year, a lot of kids are getting Covid-19,” Elijah Ruiz, 10, of New Britain (Elijah Ruiz) said.

Mia Lee, 10, of Manchester, said: “It’s really cool that you can buy a few items for a few dollars and make something that can have such a huge impact.”

“It could be life-changing for everyone, and it could cure a lot of diseases, like COVID,” said 10-year-old Nayeli Rockwell of East Hartford.

How about the idea that something they helped make and named would go into the White House?

“Get out of this world,” Nayeri said.

“It’s crazy,” Elijah said.

“It’s really, really cool because Joe Biden is our president,” Mia said.

UConn’s cross-campus collaborators on the Indoor Air Quality Initiative include: UConn Health and its Integrative Multiple Sclerosis Center, UConn School of Medicine and its Department of Public Health Sciences, UConn School of Engineering, UConn School of Nursing, UConn Regional Health Network of Education Centres (CT AHEC) and UConn Neag College of Education.

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