Brainstorming COVID-19 Hack Chat

Hackers thinking through potential solutions

Wednesday, April 8, 2020 12:00 am GMT Local time zone:
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Join us for an open-forum Hack Chat on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 at noon Pacific Time.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been sweeping across the globe now for three months. In that time it has encountered little resistance in its advances, being a novel virus that our human immune systems have never encountered, and with just the right mix of transmissibility and virulence. The virus is racking up win after win across the world, crippling public health and medical systems, shutting down entire economies, and forcing billions of people into isolation for the foreseeable future.

While social distancing is certainly an effective way to limit the spread of the disease, it feels more like hiding than fighting. Bored and stuck at home, millions of fertile minds are looking for an outlet for this frustration, a more affirmative way to fight the good fight and build solutions that the world sorely needs. And thus we've seen the outpouring of designs, ideas, and prototypes of everything from social distancing helpers to personal protective equipment (PPE) hacks

In this Hack Chat, we'll try to provide a framework around which hackers can start to turn their ideas into COVID-19 solutions. There are a ton of problems right now, but the most acute and most approachable seem to revolve around making sure healthcare providers have the PPE they need to do their job safely. Hacking at the edges of managing social distancing seems doable, too, both in terms of helping people keep a healthy distance from each other and in managing the isolation that causes. And let's not forget about managing boredom; idle hands lead to idle minds, and staying healthy mentally is just as important as good handwashing and nutrition.

Join us on Wednesday for this group-led Hack Chat and bring your best ideas for attacking COVID-19 head-on.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 3

    Dan Maloney04/08/2020 at 20:30 0 comments

    luther12:56 PM
    Trying that, for sure, so far, no joy

    @cl488 - Welcome!

    Daren Schwenke12:56 PM
    @luther There are a lot of medical professionals advising here. Where we have been getting our critical data.

    DrG12:57 PM
    My Hack to keep sane is to work on ANY of the 176354299 unfinished project list :)

    Patrick12:57 PM
    @luther I had the opportunity to spend time testing a tidal flow meter last Saturday at UCLA, interfacing with a working ventilator and asking questions with knowledgable folks, I learned alot. Don't claim to be an expert, but happy to answer questions

    Nicolas Tremblay12:57 PM
    @Dan Maloney I'm finally getting around to all those projects and kits that have been laying around for years. But since I'm working, I don't have that much time free.

    luther12:58 PM
    Anyone who wants to reach me -, 617 308 4698

    Daren Schwenke12:58 PM
    @Patrick is running a successful project for ventilator sensing over at helpfulengineering Slack channel.

    luther12:59 PM
    @Patrick, email me when you can

    RichardCollins12:59 PM
    I read all the comments and suggestions and links as well as I could.

    This discussion will not lead to much. It stirs things here, but has no permanent impact. What is needed are long term combined efforts of many people.

    The important part is to have places for each of these concepts and ideas to be worked out completely.

    Not ten million individual efforts, but a thousand combined efforts of ten thousand each.

    Perhaps that is something that HackaDay.IO could try.

    Unless there were a major breakdown of society, thre is no way any medical person or group will let hackers experiment with people. No matter how smart or well intentioned. But a formal group, working under strict guidelines with medical and legal and financial advisors --- might.

    Even a thousand such groups - they all would have the same organizational structure, just different topics and content.

    One tool, different topics. software on steroids. Or just done extremely well with nothing missed.

    luther1:00 PM
    @Patrick ""

    Patrick1:00 PM
    @luther email sent

    Dustin Sysko1:00 PM
    @DrG What's the project 176354299 list?

    cl4881:00 PM
    I’ve been using ventilators full time since 1995. I wanted to comment that iron lungs are relics. I watched a news piece about them a few years ago. There’s maybe 4-5 users in the USA if I recall correctly. Basically those users are friends with machinists and other hackers to keep those iron lungs going

    luther1:00 PM

    profdc91:00 PM
    You are correct that except under circumstances in which the doctors, hospitals, and patients have literally nothing to lose, you are unlikely to see many of these proposals tried, much less adopted.

    DrG1:01 PM
    @Dustin Sysko umm the (somehwat exagerated) number of projects that I will get to

    OK, then - we're at the top of the hour, but since there's no host to let get back to work, we can keep the chat going. Or not, whichever way works for me. I'll just put an official wrap on the chat and say thanks to everyone for participating, and tolerating something a little bit different this week.

    [skaarj]1:01 PM
    ....ways to keep safe and sane during isolation?

    [skaarj]1:01 PM

    Daren Schwenke1:01 PM
    @RichardCollins That is happening, with legal entity protection for members, clinical trials, oversight, teams with split goals... good documentation... Just need to be in the right group.

    [skaarj]1:02 PM
    that is my method of staying safe and sane...

    Next week we'll be talking about PCB Bring-Up with Mihir Shah from InspectAR. Sorry, no link yet :-p

    cl4881:02 PM
    I’m curious if there’s any efforts to make very low cost PCR machines. Anything below $1,000?

    Nicolas Tremblay1:02 PM
    @Dan Maloney Thanks for moderating in these crazy times

    Daren Schwenke1:03 PM
    I second that... Today was an exercise in cat herding.

    [skaarj]1:03 PM

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Dan Maloney04/08/2020 at 20:29 0 comments

    riley.august12:24 PM
    @profdc9 negative pressure on the chest? That's interesting. I looked into that, but I couldn't find enough peer reviewed medical sources to justify a prototype. If these guys are finding it works and are going to trials, that's amazing.

    profdc912:25 PM


    Ventilator-Induced Lung Injury

    As with most medical and pharmacological interventions, mechanical ventilation must be titrated within a therapeutic window, providing the required life-sustaining support while minimizing unintended toxicity. The potential for mechanical ventilation to cause harm was first described in the mid-18 th century.

    Read this on PubMed Central (PMC)

    Nicolas Tremblay12:25 PM
    higher wattage, less time to sterelise the area

    luther12:25 PM
    They tried that 20 years ago, now they favor PEEP (positive expiratory end pressure)

    borelli.g9212:25 PM
    @Josh Starnes , according to the feedback that you have received, what is the main target that your lamp is used to disinfect?

    @profdc9 - Good question, don't know. I also wonder about PEEP - how does an iron lung manage that? Or does it need to? I know that people who got polio in the 1950s are still in the 40s-era iron lungs, and that tech predates knowledge of PEEP, I think.

    riley.august12:25 PM
    @profdc9 If you're applying pressure externally, like in what you have linked, the chest muscles will be doing their job to prevent barotrauma. They will, however, also prevent your system from WORKING in some cases. The amount of vacuum will vary per patient.

    Nicolas Tremblay12:25 PM
    and don't forget, power diminishes by the square of the distance

    borelli.g9212:26 PM
    (by the way, very appealing design)

    Josh Starnes12:26 PM
    doorknobs, dishes, handles, masks. things that are handled often

    @Josh Starnes - Groceries that you bring home...

    Josh Starnes12:27 PM
    yes, bugs are killed in a couple seconds 1-2 cm away, at a few inches 10-15 seconds

    borelli.g9212:28 PM
    @Josh Starnes I tried to use my old UV exposer to "clean" some FFP2 masks

    Then I have found an article to which the International Medical Center of Beijing contributed:

    christian12:28 PM
    UVC sterilization is coered in a very accessible way by the Scottish electronicist Big Clive

    Josh Starnes12:29 PM
    the band I am using is reffered to as Far UVC, 154-155 nm , NON ozone creating bulbs

    borelli.g9212:29 PM

    [skaarj]12:29 PM
    .....HEPA filters are also good materials for masks, and they can be disinfected by boiling in water ( )

    profdc912:29 PM
    A quick look at the research does not make it obvious to me that negative pressure avoids the problem with ARDS that positive pressure does. Both might have a narrow therapeutic window.


    Dustin Sysko12:30 PM
    Keep in mind a lot of mask+shield designs incorporate foam materials for comfort or to conform to facial topology. The group I've been working with rejects anything with foam as it can't be sterilized OR considers it as 1-time-use disposable.

    profdc912:30 PM
    I put a germicidal lamp into a cardboard box lined with aluminum foil to maximize available dose. Aluminum has a high reflectivity for UVC.

    [skaarj]12:30 PM
    However it is preferred to use a new filter, and not the filter already inside your vacuum cleaner. HEPA and UV lamps may be a good sollution for DIY filters

    James Newton12:30 PM
    I payed (a lot) extra for Silicone weather stripping to avoid foam on the masks I'm printing.

    James Newton12:30 PM
    Or paid.

    skot12:30 PM
    sous vide is a very easy constant temperature source. and you can easily go with the dry heat or moist heat depending on which research papers you read.

    profdc912:31 PM
    I think a pulmonologist needs to weigh in about the possibility about ARDS with an iron lung.


    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney04/08/2020 at 20:28 0 comments

    OK, welcome everyone. Today's Hack Chat is a bit different, since we have no host per se. I'll be moderating, though - I'm Dan Maloney, staff writer at and community engineer at, BTW

    [skaarj]12:01 PM
    Hint: for whoever is working for medical hacks: go check in with the Army and ask them to allow you access to their forgotten warehouses

    christian12:02 PM
    Thank you, Dan

    Daren Schwenke12:02 PM
    Thank you Dan. Moderate away. :)

    I think what we can accomplish today is to just get some ideas out there about how we can hack this situation, with the obvious aim of making things better

    Ale joined  the room.12:02 PM

    Fervel Lankemann joined  the room.12:02 PM

    We've seen tons of hacks that mostly come down to two broad buckets: personal protective gear for healthcare pros/first responders, and DIY ventilators

    David12:03 PM
    how about COVID-19 detection?

    Joshua Young12:03 PM
    Does anyone have recommendations for mass airflow sensors for ventilators. Like a link to what i can buy?

    David12:03 PM


    DNA-LAMP Diagnostic Device

    Billions of people have no way to access modern medicine, and millions die there each year from communicable diseases. A baby girl born in Sub-Saharan Africa faces a 22 per cent risk of death before age 15.

    Read this on Hackaday

    Daren Schwenke12:04 PM
    Links inline to keep them from expanding.

    Honestly, the DIY ventilators scare the crap out of me - read Bob Baddely's article and watch Real Engineering's latest video on why they're such a bad idea and might do more harm than good.

    David12:04 PM
    that should be able to detect COVID-19 RNA in about 10 mins

    luther12:04 PM
    I've been making fabric face masks withe a bunch of friends and some local businesses, we've donated ~200 to local hospitals and shelters


    Ventilators 101: What They Do And How They Work

    Treating the most serious cases of COVID-19 calls for the use of ventilators. We've all heard this, and also that there is a shortage of these devices. But there is not one single type of ventilator, and that type of machine is not the only option when it comes to assisted breathing being used in treatment.

    Read this on Hackaday

    luther12:04 PM
    But then I got on the DIY ventilator train, too


    Real Engineering Behind Ventilators

    Experts on cognition tell us that most people think they know more than they really do. One particular indicator for that is if someone is an expert in one field and they feel like all other fields relate to theirs (everything boils down to math or chemistry or physics, for example).

    Read this on Hackaday

    christian12:05 PM
    If you need a ventilator you also need a team of expert medical staff .. that's surely yhr bottleneck

    Steven.Carr joined  the room.12:05 PM

    [skaarj]12:05 PM
    ......all of these projects are based on 3D printed parts, which have tiny holes inside... and this is a perfect environment for "colonies of microscopic animals" to hide

    [skaarj]12:05 PM
    that's why our Army dumped this idea

    luther12:06 PM
    I modeled existing pneumatic ventilators from Penlon and Pneupac

    Arthur12:06 PM
    Joshua look at the sensors used in cars in engine management systems

    So maybe can we shy away from those two categories and talk more about other areas that hackers can make a difference in? Testing is a great place to start; maybe disinfection too?

    profdc912:06 PM
    I think it is a little unfair to suggest that most people believe they know more than they do. It's more solutions borne out of desperation than anything else. Under normal circumstances almost everyone thinking...

    Read more »

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Nicolas Tremblay wrote 04/07/2020 at 20:36 point

There seems to be a bug int the time for Outlook. It wasn't coded within the proper timezone.

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