Makers Against Ebola – The Missions

The Four Missions (photos from

The Four Missions (photos from

How are makers supposed to contribute to Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development? This high-urgency initiative against Ebola is focused around four missions. They’re not centered around medical science but around the healthcare worker, their ability to provide care and stop the spread of the disease.

As you’ll see, these are areas where we makers can help.

Mission #1Strengthen Healthcare Capacity The wonderful care givers on the frontline must be further empowered and protected. Their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is cumbersome, hot, and uncomfortable which result in short work shifts, clumsy movement and potential exposure to Ebola. Their work environment and tools must be improved to provide better, safer care. This mission is ripe for maker innovation.

Mission #2Promote Care-Seeking Understandably there is fear of Ebola and in many instances aversion to seeking care. Help is needed to change behavior and encourage care-seeking, it’s key to stemming the epidemic. This is an area where creative makers can contribute to the pool of ideas.

Mission #3Boost Tracking & Communication Measuring, gathering and analyzing data are second nature to makers and can help with decision making, resource deployment, and containment strategies. With all we do with micro controllers, sensors, actuators and communications this is a natural area for us to offer help.

Mission #4Surprise Us! As with any good solution-seeking endeavor it’s open ended. Our community spends its time outside the box more than most so as we learn more we’re likely to have other helpful ideas. This mission is where ideas that don’t fit above will be captured. It’s a place where many makers will likely make contributions.

Solving problems, that’s the kind of thing we’re really good at. Now is our chance to help stem a crisis which poses increasing threat. Let’s show the world what makers can do; go now and start contributing ideas.

Makers Against Ebola – The Virus

Ebola Medical Ward (by Daniel Bausch, MD, MPH&TM)

Ebola Medical Ward (photo by Daniel Bausch, MD, MPH&TM)

Why are so many people getting sick if Ebola is not very contagious? How are makers supposed to get involved and make a difference? We need to understand fundamentals about Ebola if we’re going to help with Fighting Ebola. Let’s start with a little background on the disease.

The current epidemic is the Zaire strain of Ebola. People become infected with it only when they come in contact with bodily fluids (e.g. blood, saliva, tears, urine, etc.) of someone showing symptoms. Ebola is not airborne. To become infected you must transfer the virus from infected fluids in to your system. The common pathways are through the mucus membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth but there are other ways such as through an open wound. This need for direct contact is why it’s not very contagious.

However, in caring for the sick there is plenty of opportunity to contract the disease. Infected people experience fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and more producing lots of infected fluids. The sicker the infected, the more virus they produce, and the easier it is for someone to pick it up. Very importantly, you must come in physical contact with body fluids and the virus must find its way into your system. The virus is found in a variety of fluids including blood, saliva, stools, tears, urine, sweat, breast milk, and semen. Caring for the sick puts people in close proximity to infected fluids and potentially exposing caregivers to Ebola.

Another irony is that while it’s often deadly if you contract it, the Ebola virus is actually quite easy to kill. This virus is in what’s called a “lipid envelope”, that means the virus is enclosed in a vulnerable fatty enclosure. The protective envelop can be easily destroyed with exposure to disinfectants, heat or UV light from sunshine. The virus only stays alive for hours to days and is easy to kill with bleach or alcohol. In many ways this makes the virus seem rather feeble and easy to clean up after.

So, Ebola is not very contagious. However the sick produce lots of fluids and contact with those can lead to infection.

Therein lies our challenge … eliminating exposure while close to the infected. We makers can invent ways to do this, prototype our ideas, and help shut down this crisis. Pop on over to the Research area of the Challenge to learn more. To solve a problem you must first understand it.

Makers Against Ebola – Intro

Colorized Ebola Virus (by Cynthia Goldsmith)

Colorized Ebola Virus (by Cynthia Goldsmith)

While not highly contagious, Ebola is highly deadly once contracted. An estimated 70% of people who get sick with Ebola will die. The current outbreak began in West Africa back in March of 2014 and has since spread through Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. As of October 10 the CDC reports there were 8376 cases resulting in 4024 deaths so far. Again, while not highly contagious, it is spreading and the numbers of sick and dying are growing.

So how can makers help to fight Ebola?

We can help by doing what we do best: solving problems.

Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development is a high-urgency initiative to help healthcare workers at the front lines provide better care and stop the spread of Ebola. The program is made up of two parts: 1) OpenIDEO (an open innovation platform) and 2) the Challenge Grant (a funding platform). The Challenge is a fast-paced effort to make a difference quickly.

OpenIDEO is a natural place for makers to contribute. Here you’ll find background information, research, ideas are being generated and prototyped, and in a few weeks the best ideas will be implemented.

The Challenge Grant is $5,000,000 set aside to fund prototypes.

Click here to learn how the OpenIDEO program works.

Let’s get involved; we can make a difference.

The Challenge has 25 days to go!

3D Printed Peristaltic Pump

Maker [Tim] used OpenSCAD to design his parametric peristaltic pump printed in one piec

Maker [Tim] used OpenSCAD to design his parametric peristaltic pump printed in one piec

Hospitals typically use them for pumping IV fluids and in heart and lung machines during bypass surgery. We’re talking about the parametric pump, which are used to move sterile or clean fluids without becoming cross contaminated. They work by squeezing a length of tube fitted inside a circular casing, which compresses the tube using rollers thereby pushing the fluid inside.

As you could imagine, these types of pumps are on the expensive side (a few hundred bucks at the very least), however they can be 3D printed on the cheap, which was detailed in a blog from by [Tim] on his website ( He based his parametric peristaltic pump on emmett’s planetary gear bearing design that uses gears to move fluid rather than rollers or shoes. He designed his pump using the versatile OpenSCAD 3D CAD modeler and printed it out using a Lulzbot 3D printer. What makes it interesting is that the pump is printed already assembled in one piece, only add tubing when done!

The pump features captive rollers with minimal wear surface

The pump features captive rollers with minimal wear surface

We Make Health Fest recap

The We Make Health Fest took place on Saturday 8/16. The fest was hosted by the University of Michigan and encouraged creation of technology that could change how we stay healthy. Speakers from the community presented on many exciting topics and below you’ll find some of the exciting ideas that makers had to share.

e-NABLE showed off low cost 3D printed prostheses which can be manufactured for much less than the cost of commercial prosthetic solutions. They are focused on sharing information about the maker movement effort to produce a low cost prosthetic hand.

3D-printed prostheses by e-NABLE

3D-printed prostheses by e-NABLE

Akadeum Life Sciences demonstrated technology to isolate samples of cells at a high purity rate. By coating specifically targeted cells, their glass micro-bubbles can attach to the cells and float them to the surface of a solution. The technology has applications for food pathogen testing and purifying cell samples.

This type of purification is often done using Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). FACS separates cells into different containers by examining cells one by one. It does this by first placing a cell in individual droplets of a liquid. The fluorescence characteristic of each droplet are measured and based on this measurement, the system decides how to sort the cell. The actual sorting is done using electromagnets.

Akadeum’s solution allows for sorting many cells quickly in a low cost manner.

Brandon McNaughton demonstrates the ease of using Akadeum's cell isolation process.

Brandon McNaughton demonstrates the ease of using Akadeum’s cell isolation process.

Researchers with the University of Michigan School of Public Health developed as an easy way for clinicians to visualize risk in a standard way.

UM researchers have published multiple articles demonstrating that icon arrays (“pictographs”) are more effective than bar or pie charts at communicating risk and reducing cognitive biases in risk perceptions.

You can read more about the development and existing uses of of IconArray here.


Gary Olthoff demonstrated his invention to ease carrying of mattresses. When his father was placed in a nursing home, Gary observed frequent moving of mattresses would cause injuries to staff. The staff had difficulty maneuvering the unwieldy objects and the task required two people to complete safely. His original solution was built from a lawn mower handle and was well liked by staff at several facilities where it was on loan. After several iterations on the design, he prepared a commercial version called the EZCarryBed Mattress Carrier. The device allows a single person to easily hold and move the mattresses.

EZCarryBed Mattress Carrier

EZCarryBed Mattress Carrier

Duane Mackey showed off his DIY Mosquito trap. The traps started as a science fair project after he was inspired by Gates Foundation’s work to prevent the spread of Malaria. He set out to build a better mosquito trap and after several iterations has designs that performed better than commercial solutions during tests. He plans to make the designs freely available at (Note: At time of publication this link was not functional).

Iterations on an open source mosquito trap design.

Iterations on an open source mosquito trap design.

Did you make it out to the festival? Let us know what technology caught your eye in the comments below!

More photos:

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We Make Health Fest – Saturday 8/16

The We Make Health Fest is this Saturday 8/16 from 10am – 4pm! If you are in the Ann Arbor, MI area, stop by the University of Michigan Palmer Commons and check it out. Presenters from the community, University of Michigan and the University of Michigan Health system will be on hand to demonstrate and show how making has changed the way we stay healthy.

The purpose is for the COMMUNITY to share their personal stories, Do-It-Yourself Technologies, and creations for managing health.

In addition to various interactive exhibits and presentations, they will also be screening a documentary about the Maker movement. “Maker” was the result of a successful Kickstarter project in 2013.

More information is available here: Website Speaker Schedule


Fab Lab DC’s Phyllis Klein Takes Her “Remember2” Wearable to the White House


Remember2 by Phyllis Klein

Phyllis Klein, co-founder of Fab Lab DC, wore her Fab Academy final project, Remember2, to the White House Maker Faire. Remember2 is a a programmable, origami-inspired bracelet that sparkles at intervals to remind the wearer to get up and move, take a break, exercise, refocus, or various other actions.


Remember2, illuminated

“I’m thrilled and honored to be attending the White House Maker Faire,” she says. “Receiving the invitation was a Cinderella moment for me.”

But it’s not just about being at the White House, she says. A Maker Faire is still a Maker Faire: “I’m looking forward to meeting other makers, including policy makers; learning about their projects and initiatives; and discussing how together we can further the ‘make’ mission,” she says.

And she hopes to find some kindred spirits there. “I think this project nicely aligns with the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative,” she says.

Fab Lab DC’s Founders Story: Phyllis Klein and Alex Mayer

Alex Mayer and Phyllis Klein are lifelong makers, from childhood to now, making things and making things happen. Initially working as artists, multimedia designers, and researchers, we were naturally drawn to new digital design technologies and processes and the possibilities they offer — for our ideas and for others. In addition to keeping the lab running, I’m also participating in Fab Academy and exploring tessellation fabrication, press fit systems, and wearable designs. Alex is learning and applying digital fabrication in his art, design, and architecture projects.


CNC-ed fine art by Alex Mayer


Made at Fab Lab DC

As an “urban pioneer,” settling in DC in the mid-1970’s, Alex purchased and began reviving an 1890’s smokehouse for home and studio in the 14th and U neighborhood. At that time, the area — which had been the epicenter of the 1968 riots – was desolate and troubled. I joined Alex here in the mid-1980’s. And, although riddled with crime, prostitution, and drugs, we saw the opportunity to contribute to the transformation of the neighborhood. Our engagement with neighbors, civic groups, the local government, and a citywide coalition of like-minded citizens helped to leverage positive results. And, in parallel, we were also members of a burgeoning and dynamic arts community. We still live and work in the ‘smokehouse,’ and we raised our two daughters here. WAMU did a fun piece about we alley dwellers: “D.C.’s Alley Dwellers Live In The Heart Of It All, Out Of Sight”.

Our interest in urban renewal, art and design, education, and technology led us to the Fab Lab Project and founding Fab Lab DC.


Made at Fab Lab DC

About Fab Lab DC

Fab Lab DC is a nonprofit, community maker space nestled in the middle of a block on busy North Capitol Street, NW, in a transitional neighborhood in the heart of Washington, DC. (You can see the U.S. Capitol from our front sidewalk.) We are currently an all-volunteer organization, growing incrementally through our Fab activities, grants, contributions, and community support. We offer workshops, events, speaker series, and exhibitions. Our reach and opportunities for collaboration are also extended through our connection with global network of Fab Labs.


CNC Gallery Show at Fab Lab DC; Sculptures by Alex Mayer, Snap Furniture by Ryan McKibbin, via Fab Lab DC


Made at Fab Lab DC

We launched Fab Lab DC after meeting Neil Gershenfeld and Sherry Lassiter in 2010, and starting out in MIT’s Mobile Fab Lab. From there, our lab ‘popped up’ at the historic building on North Capitol Street in November 2011, during DC’s Digital Capital Week. We formally got underway at the location in mid-2012.

We serve the region’s diverse creative community, which includes makers, artists, designers, architects, educators, students, and the general public. The serendipitous convergence of people from a variety of backgrounds, educational experiences, ages, and interests contributes to the appeal of the lab as a gathering place to exchange and realize ideas. We also serve as a model lab for leaders in government, industry, education, and business, and provide information and answers to the many inquiries about the Fab Project. Interested in learning more? Contact Fab Lab DC!


Just a few things going on at Fab Lab DC

Tikkun Olam Make-a-thon Helps Those In Need

“Tikkun Olam” is a Hebrew phrase that literally means “Making the world better”. TOM, which stands for “Tikkun Olam Make-a-thon” is a marathon of Making and Hacking dedicated to just that.

For 3 days this summer, Makers of all kinds will be gathered in an amazing industrial space in Nazareth, Israel, to develop, design and produce prototypes of items aimed for making the world better. Specifically, for improving the quality of life and independence of people living with disabilities.

TOM, a project by The Schusterman Philanthropic Network and The Reut Institute’s XLN project, is a Make-a-thon: a hackathon of Makers. Makers: designers, engineers, professionals and hobbyists and “Need-Knowers”: people living with a disability of people working and living with people with disabilities will invent, design and create working prototypes, for the benefit of all.

TOM takes place on June 29th – July 1st, 2014. Unfortunately, the application period for the event ended on May 10th. Those accepted to take part in TOM will get the experience of a lifetime: Other than using your Maker-Powers for doing good, you will be staying in 5 stars accommodation, working in a state-of-the-art 3D-printers-savvy specially-crafted makerspace and may be eligible for a heavily subsidized trip and stay to Israel.

For more details and to apply go to the TOM Website. For questions and comments mail:

A Hospital Mini Maker Faire



Let’s Make Health! That’s was the banner under which we all flew Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 at the Maimonides Medical Center Mini Maker Faire in Brooklyn. Fifty years ago, in that same hospital, Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz used modified electronic metronomes bought in Canal street to prototype the first implantable pacemakers. They hacked AM transistor radios tuned to their lowest frequency to debug the pacemaker ticking and propelled the hospital’s research to do pioneering work in heart transplant surgery.

Today, that spirit of making in health is alive and well in the 100 years old hospital. The hospital staff with leadership from their Community of Nurse Scholars program hosted the first ever Mini Maker Faire in a hospital. The hospital worked closely with our MIT Little Devices Lab and our MakerNurse program to bring together health makers from around the hospital and the local neighborhood to showcase actual medical technologies and projects being used everyday.

So what’s it like to host the first ever Mini Maker Faire at a hospital?

Simulation Mannequins


We knew this wasn’t going to be a typical Mini Maker Faire when the first thing that rolled into the venue was a 6 foot tall, life sized, animatronic medical simulation mannequin used at the Center for Clinical Simulation. It was part of an exhibit called Remaking the Hospital Bed where Mini Maker Faire guests could come and up modify and attach ideas of how you could make the typical hospital bed, a better one. The simulation environments are critical for health making—you don’t want to experiment your ideas on a patient when you can start with a robot. At Maimonides, the health making doctors and nurses try out their idea and training on robots before it reaches the bedside.

Veteran Makers from NYSCI’s Makerspace in Queens joined us during the daytime portion of the event to make paper circuits, large scale prototyping, and learning the basics of hand sewing—which turned out to be interesting since there were a lot of surgeons on hand to trade tips on sewing versus suturing!

So why a Mini Maker Faire in a hospital? Taking back health.


Groups like DIYAbility , the Galloway Lab at University of Delaware and our own at MIT have shown that DIY and Health Technologies are returning to makers. Most of the innovations we see in healthcare have often started as maker concepts that eventually got progressively more polished into manufacturable devices. So when Kelly Reilly, a nurse at Maimonides Medical Center and local investigator on our MakerNurse project at the hospital announced they wanted to run a Mini Maker Faire during May, we were ecstatic. We were also about to get a lesson in hospital scheduling.

Mini Maker Faire: the Day Shift and the Night Shift

Hospitals never sleep, not even when the patients are sleeping. So one major difference in programming was hosting two Maker Faire sessions: Daytime (11am to 4pm) and Nighttime (8pm to Midnight) to make sure all the hospital staff could join, even those beginning their day at 8:30pm and leaving at 5:30am. We had a lot of coffee that day. This also included a some kids from the neighborhood a little past their bedtime on a school night. Who can resist attaching Makey Makey’s on hospital equipment, though?

Historical Makers In one exhibit, we used modern day prototyping tools such as 3-D printers, laser cutters, and good old fashion hacking of consumer devices to recreate devices made by nursing from 1920s through the 1950’s. One of our favorites was a “Nurse Locator” sign which was like the Status Update of 1955.

Lego in the Oncology Wing Victor Ty is an oncology nurse by day, Lego master builder every other day, he wowed visitors with his recreations of linear accelerators for radiation treatment built with a purpose: to help pediatric patients cope and understand the treatment process in what would usually be a big scary machine in the eyes of some very sick kids. By learning how the machines work and what’s about to happen to them, kids, especially those with sensory, language and cognitive challenges, can be more comfortable with treatment.

Hot Tamales, Jelly Beans and Plasma: DIY Medical Simulation for Ages 10 and under Another staff member who works as part of the Child Life Services team, demonstrated the various tools they make to help kids understand what the body goes through during different treatments. With a mixture of Karo Syrup, Hot Tamale candy’s, Jelly Beans and food coloring in a bottle, you get an amazing representation of the body during an infection and how our blood fights back. I have friends who design advanced simulation systems for the Army medics and this visualization of the blood system is one of the best (and cheapest) I’ve ever seen. Oh yeah, and the kids actually make it themselves. That’s health making.

Exchanges, brainstorms, tools and tinkering

Maker Faire is more than just a show and tell gathering, it’s an exchange of things and ideas and that’s exactly what Maimonides set out to do. By gathering caregiver staff from all sorts of departments: Neonatal Intensive Care Units, Delivery Units, the ER, the OR, the Post-Operative Intensive Care Unit, the Psychiatry department, and many more across the hospital and around the neighborhood, we were able to see first hand what happens when we have conversations about making health: Could we use a Raspberrry Pi camera to track motion? Is an accelerometer really that small? That cheap!? We give you Sugru, we trade you with surgical tape. Can you 3-D print this type of clasp for the Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine? Could we make a mold instead so it’s softer? I can make my own app with AppInventor? Could we use it to make a wound monitoring system? The folks at DIYAbility are hacking the toys again with accessibility circuits, could we use that conductive fabric for the hospital bed? Can you roll the MakerNurse Technology Crash Cart closer to this part of the hall?


In the end, as a health making lab that gets to work with maker nurses, maker doctors, maker caregivers and maker patients around the world, these conversations were music to our ears. And the beyond the conversations, the prototypes and the device making that is continuing after the first Mini Maker Faire at a hospital offer a the promise that something you can hold on your hand, is something that can heal, and something you can make. Our team at the hospital, the lab, and our friends at DIYAbility, NYSCI are incredibly excited. We’ll see you at the next hospital Mini Maker Faire! Until then, there are many more pictures of the event in our Flickr album.


Making the “Luke” Bionic Arm


Today the FDA approved the marketing of Dean Kamen’s DEKA Arm, the robotic prosthetic affectionately known as the “Luke arm,” after Commander Skywalker’s famed replacement limb in The Empire Strikes Back. (Installed and poked by medical droid/action figure 2-1B, if memory serves.)

According to the FDA, the Luke arm is “the first prosthetic arm that can perform multiple, simultaneous powered movements controlled by electrical signals from electromyogram (EMG) electrodes.” The arm supports a variety of control inputs including wireless motion sensors that can be worn on the feet, EMG sensors, bump switches, and pull switches. These extensive connections to the wearer make the Luke arm potentially a game changer for amputees seeking to regain fine control of objects in the hand. In studies at the Veterans Administration, 90 percent of participants were able to perform complex tasks their previous prosthesis couldn’t handle: use keys and locks, prepare food, feed themselves, use zippers, brush and comb hair.

What do the arm’s makers have to say about it? We asked DEKA engineer Tom Doyon to tell us a little about the Gen 3 DEKA Arm that was approved today:

Who can forget the scene from The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader uses his light saber to cut off Luke Skywalker’s hand? As the movie closes, Luke gets a robotic hand that looks and moves like his original hand. Well, a team of engineers at Dean Kamen’s DEKA Research & Development Corp. has been working to make science fiction movie magic a reality for today’s upper limb amputees. With sponsorship from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Army Research Office (ARO), the “Luke” project (as it is known inside DEKA) was formed to advance prosthetic arm technology.

The DEKA Arm, now in its third generation, is modular and configurable for different levels of amputation.  In its maximum configuration, is has 10 powered degrees of freedom including a powered shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand. The hand has six preprogrammed grips that are user-selectable. These grips are Power Grip, Tool Grip, Fine Pinch Open Grip, Fine Pinch Closed Grip, Lateral Pinch Grip, and Chuck Grip.  Using a 2.4 GHz wireless interface with a proprietary protocol, a prosthetist can configure the arm system based on how the amputee wants to control the arm.

Developing an advanced prosthetic arm that is the same size, weight, and function of a natural limb wasn’t an easy task.  There were many design challenges in developing the DEKA Arm.  These include developing a configurable, non-invasive control scheme, keeping the weight of the arm equivalent to the “original equipment”, and getting all of the desired functionality into the required space.

Perhaps the most difficult engineering challenge in developing the DEKA Arm was the hand.  Look at your hand when you move your fingers to pick a pen up off of a table; then imagine the challenge of fitting motors, mechanisms, gears, and electronics in the same space that can accomplish the same functions as your hand.  To turn the group’s ideas into reality, the DEKA design team used a solid-modeling, 3D CAD system, SLS and SLA rapid prototyping systems to quickly prove concepts, and advanced manufacturing techniques to build the first systems.

The DEKA Arm is modular, so it can serve

The DEKA Arm is modular, so it can be configured for different levels of amputation.

Developing the DEKA Arm was very challenging and yet also rewarding for all those involved.  They worked closely with and received design feedback from many upper-limb amputees.  This valuable feedback helped the DEKA design team to quickly iterate and improve the design.  In addition, it was very rewarding for the DEKA team to directly see the impact this arm has on amputee’s lives by witnessing the test subjects using the arm.

The science fiction movie world of Luke Skywalker is becoming a reality for today’s amputees.

Tom Doyon Electrical Engineer DEKA Research & Development Corp. Manchester, New Hampshire

[1] The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Government, and no official endorsement shall be inferred.

No, it doesn't look like this — yet.

No, it doesn’t look like this — yet. (Ouch!)