How your tech skills can help in the pandemic

Mar 29, 2020 | Hot Topics

The world may be a sucky place right now, but people are (mostly) awesome. Protocol just published a list of projects that can use your/my/everyone’s tech wizardry. That inspired me to go through my inbox and pick out all of the other ones I’ve been emailed about so far. If you’re starting something and can use help, tell me and I’ll add it here, but also tell Protocol (their writers’ email address is at the bottom of the first link below), post it on GitHub, your alumni news site (if that’s appropriate), LinkedIn — anywhere you can to get the word out. We need to get a lot of people working on this NOW.

As of 29 March,

  • Protocol’s list includes pandemic data visualizations at Johns Hopkins, COVID-19 test tracking at USC, a project to 3D print face shields at Columbia University (and they need drivers, so if you’re in NYC …)
  • LinuxInsider has another great list, here, for epidemiological modeling, hospital capacity planning, apps to help people feel less isolated during lockdowns
  • There’s a Help with Covid website, where projects are advertizing for help and some individuals are advertizing for projects
  • NYU has established the OpenFacePPE project, which seeks to connect medical supply chain players who can 3D print an open-source face shield (PPE stands for personal protective equipment and includes all sorts of devices, not just face shields)
  • Gerber Technologies founded the Gerber PPE Task Force to help manufacturers increase production or convert to producing PPEs
  • has yet more software projects to get involved in
  • GraphicSpeak (the Jon Peddie newsletter) published an article about an MIT project on open source respirators — perhaps there’s a way to get involved there
  • Then there’s Folding@home, which uses your PC’s or gaming system’s unused GPUs to work to help scientists develop models and, we all hope, a vaccine. I haven’t done this, but the instructions are here
  • Stratasys has put together a network of 3D print shops and universities to print face shields. If you can do at least 100, contact them!

ADDED ON 30 March:

Carl Bass, (@CarlBass on Twitter and Instagram) is 3D printing face shields. He emailed that “a ton of people [reached] out willing to donate time and money which is absolutely fantastic. What I need most is people letting me know of places where nurses, doctors and staff don’t have the PPE they need. Also, anyone who wants to do the same can have the plans etc. You can reach Carl by going to @carlbass on Twitter.

ADDED ON 31 March:

More on that last project: Carl is working on an Instructable for people who want to make face shields and sent this address for hospitals that need shields: 

ADDED ON 1 April (and not, as far as I can tell, a hack):

Stratasys announced the CoVent-19 Challenge,

an open innovation 8-week Grand Challenge for engineers, innovators, designers, and makers … We welcome all who are interested to join a two round challenge that aims to create CAD assemblies by May 1, 2020 (Round 1: General Admission) and functional prototypes demonstrating acceptable performance by June 1, 2020 (Round 2: Invitation Only).

It seems that anyone can get involved, solo or in a team. Go check it out! 

ADDED ON 2 April:

Ralf Steck has a terrific roundup of what the vendor community is doing to make technology more accessible, whether you’re using it for work, to upskill or participate in a COVID-related project. It’s in German but your browser should easily translate it for you. Thanks, Ralf!


And if you’re not a techie, there are lots of things you can do, too. This PBS article has some terrific ideas.

Stay safe, don’t hoard and wash those hands!