Hacking in a Time of Coronavirus

Society is reeling from the twin crises of a brtual coronavirus pandemic and an economic kernel panic. How have hackers and makers been stepping up to the challenge?

at the Recybery

Making bleach

With store shelves empty of essentials like cleaning supplies, it's time to look around for a way to make them from scratch. Here's one example: washing soda (sodium carbonate) is added to swimming pool chlorinating granules (calcium hypochlorite). Chalk powder (calcium carbonate) precipitates, leaving liquid bleach (sodium hypochlorite) to be decanted off.
Ca(ClO)2(aq) + Na2CO3(aq) CaCO3(s) + 2NaClO(aq)

Our first run at the Recybery yielded five and a half gallons of 6% bleach! They were donated to groups like the local Food Not Bombs chapter.
don't forget proper PPE: gloves, goggles, and a lab coat
here's the ingredients: calcium hypochlorite pool chlorinating granules, sodium carbonate washing soda, water, and a a big mixing tub five gallons of fine, artisanal liquid bleach

Sewing face masks

sewing machine go brrr: cotton facemasks in production!
Supplies of N95 masks have been exhausted by medical demand; fortunately, cloth masks are easy to make! They function primarily to filter small droplets that spray when we cough, talk, and breath. Because these droplets can transmit the virus, the CDC has recently recommended the use of cloth masks in public, even providing instructions for making your own. (When the feds are offering clever lifehacks by way of public health assistance, you might be living in a failed state!) A recent study under review found that, as a complement to other strategies, "The preponderance of evidence indicates that mask wearing reduces the transmissibility per contact by reducing transmission of infected droplets in both laboratory and clinical contexts." Suffice to say, the Singer Featherweight has been running full tilt! We've been using the "Masks of Love" pattern . We ran out of cloth for a moment, but thanks to a generous donation from CommunityWorx Thrift Store, we're back up and running!
assembled cotton face masks, the height of plague fashion

Folding At Home

One of the first things the Recybery worked on was crunching numbers for distributed scientific computing through BOINC. FoldingAtHome is one such distributed computing project; it runs protein dynamic simulations for biomedical researchers, and has recently taken on COVID-19 reseach, looking for therapeutic targets. Our computer is contributing to the HackADay team - check out our stats!

and Beyond

Here's a few of the things that are going on elsewhere:

Faceshields from UNC BEAM

Medical workers have found themselves without protective face shields - the university makerspace, BEAM, has stepped in to fabricate them by the hundred, while maintaining protocols for working safely during a pandemic! We gave them a gallon of bleach so they could keep running.

Triangle mutual aid

You might have seen portable handwashing stations popping up around town - they're a project of Triangle Mutual Aid and Bonneville Electric. They're following the build instructions found here.

Misc 3D Prints

The NIH is maintaining a library of community-sourced 3D prints specifically useful during this crisis. Examples include headbands for face shields and plastic clips to connect face mask straps to (thus protecting the ears)


"My novella “The Masque of the Red Death” is a tribute to Poe; it’s from my book Radicalized.
It’s the story of a plute who brings his pals to his luxury bunker during civlizational collapse
in the expectation of emerging once others have rebuilt ... And naturally – for anyone who’s 
read Poe – it doesn’t work out for them. They discover that humanity has a shared microbial destiny
and that you can’t shoot germs. That every catastrophe must be answered with solidarity, not
selfishness, if it is to be survived."
-Corey Doctorow

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