two people working on a printer
Sergey Negrashov (right) works with fellow PhD student Chris Ketter

The founder of one of the first groups answering the call for personal protective equipment is being recognized by a leading STEM education organization.

Sergey Negrashov of Aloha Mask, a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa student-led group, will be featured in an Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) online panel. The computer science PhD student, who recently passed his dissertation defense and is a full-time Oceanit applied physicist, is one of four ARCS scholars being highlighted for contributing to the fight against COVID-19. The online panel is on June 12 at 7 a.m. HST.

face mask on a table

“It is an honor to stand among the scholars recognized nationally by ARCS,” said Negrashov, a 2017–18 ARCS scholar. “ARCS foundation has been extremely active throughout the pandemic and its support over the years has helped a lot of students get through their graduate programs.”

Negrashov started Aloha Mask with physics PhD student Chris Ketter in March 2020 when the COVID-19 outbreak ramped up in Hawaiʻi. They created face mask sewing kits, through the College of Engineering’s FabLab, a self-sustaining space designed for students to manufacture their designs. Aloha Mask also received help from the Department of Theatre and Dance, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources and other groups. In two months, they recruited more than 500 sewing volunteers and more than 60 delivery volunteers to distribute the face masks to essential workers. In mid-May, they made their 10,000th mask.

“The community response has been nothing short of amazing,” Negrashov said. “We received 900 yards of fabric donations from local businesses and individuals. Our sewing volunteers and drivers have been incredible too. We have been consistently sending out 1,000 mask kits per week to our volunteers and getting them back every time. We never had a sewer not return the sewing kit unfinished.”

Visit Aloha Mask’s website for more information on how to volunteer.

—By Marc Arakaki