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Teen builds DIY air purification boxes for seniors in his community: ‘I wanted to do my part’

A 14-year-old in Ontario, Canada, is stepping up to help his community as COVID-19 numbers increase once again in many countries.

Shiven Taneja didn’t spend his Christmas break playing video games or binge-watching TV shows like most of his pals. Even though he could certainly do those, he found something else worth investing his time in—building air purification boxes.

“Anxiety levels were rising again, and over my winter break, I had the time. So I felt like, why not just do it?” the teen said in an interview with The Current‘s Matt Galloway.

The aspiring engineer got to work and created Corsi-Rosenthal boxes, devices developed in 2020 by air filtration experts Jim Rosenthal and Dr. Richard Corsi.

However, some experts credit Kris Ray, the air quality program manager for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation located in northeastern Washington, United States, for creating similar units in 2019.

On Boxing Day, Taneja posted an offer to build the boxes for others on Twitter. He said he expected a few people to order and “maybe 100 likes at most,” but the teen got so much more.

Taneja’s post went viral, and he has since made around 20 air purification boxes for neighbors, local seniors, and a fencing studio.

He initially planned to build a unit only for his family but figured that other community members could benefit from it as well, particularly the elderly.

“I decided, well, getting the materials [and] actually building it might be hard for elderly people, so I decided I would build it for them,” Taneja said.

Taneja only charged $150 for each unit, which is just the cost of the materials. He usually spends one to two hours to finish one, but he said the process is pretty straightforward.

“The older you are, the harder it is — because you have to continuously bend down and sit,” he explained. “But for me, it’s around two or three on a scale of 10.”

Taneja has always been interested in engineering. In the past, he has tinkered with motors, 3D printers, and Popsicle sticks. The homemade air purifiers were his first large-scale build, but he was up to the daunting challenge.

“I wanted to do my part, despite just being 14,” he said.

The air purification boxes Taneja builds are made up of four 3M 1900 grade air filters and a 20-inch box fan. He carefully tapes the filters together to create a box shape and then tapes the box fan on top.

He explained the mechanism behind it: “The fan is blowing up and sucking air through the filters. As the air is pulled through the filters, it removes any particles [that could be] carrying the virus.”

Although it’s unclear how many coronavirus particles are filtered out by these boxes, a case study done by the University of California, Davis’s Western Cooling Efficiency Center researchers says they could be helpful.

“The reason there are four filters in a box is that gives you a lot of surface area — and that helps with the pressure drop,” says Jeffrey Siegel, an engineering professor at the University of Toronto and a ventilation expert. “So that fan is able to move more air than it could when it’s just the single filter.”

Despite all the attention his work has received, what matters most to Taneja is the reception from people who have ordered one, showing that they believe in him and his mission.

“It feels really good, especially when I deliver a box. Knowing that something I created can help someone, it’s a really good feeling,” he said.

Kudos to Shiven Taneja for stepping up and doing his part! Hopefully, this teenager’s story will inspire more people to share his community spirit.

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