Make a Difference for Hurricane Relief

Promo Headline: 
Make a Difference for Hurricane Relief

The humanitarian supplies manufacturer Field Ready, a US-based non-profit, works on-the-ground to help people directly impacted by the recent hurricanes. They tackle problems like lack of power, connectivity and water through making, and teaching skills to others. Field Ready has tools, equipment and staff on site but its staff face huge problems under the most challenging conditions. They require ingenuity, time, creativity, and experience in developing solutions that can then be constructed on the ground by skilled individuals.

To this end, Field Ready is partnering with Make: to mobilize the maker community and collect ideas, financial donations, technical remedies and scenario-specific projects that will facilitate, speed and support rebuilding efforts in the US Virgin Islands and other hurricane-ravaged areas. This is where you come in.

Start date: 
Friday, October 13, 2017 - 08
End date: 
12/08/2017 8:00 pm -03
Winners announcement date: 
Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 08
Are there prizes associated with this mission?: 
The public will be voting in this mission. : 
This mission accepts more than one entry per Maker.: 
Turn on discussions.: 
Display entries on the Mission Summary page.: 
Rules & Instructions: 

Beginning with Hurricane Irma and Maria, the hurricanes that have recently ravaged the Caribbean constitute the largest disaster to strike the region since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. We have all seen the photos of communities across the region left without basic services including food and water, electricity and mobility.


Field Ready is now completing an action assessment of the very pressing challenges in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), a U.S. territory country that received very significant damage from these hurricanes. The organization has identified many infrastructure and humanitarian needs not addressed by traditional relief and recovery efforts, needs it believes can be addressed by the unique skills and problem-solving capacity of the maker community.


Make:’s role is to collect ideas through this mission and communicate with Field Ready managers to make sure the most relevant and buildable submissions are tested.


Additional Information for all Challenges:

  • Upcycled solar panels, on average, have open circuit voltages from 30VDC-45VDC and short circuit current from 3-8A in direct sunlight, depending on the amount of damage to the individual panels.
  • Assume charge controllers and inverters are extremely hard to find and should not be factored into the final solution.
  • The Field Ready team on St. Thomas has two 3D printers capable of producing parts if needed in the design; they just need a .stl file.
  • There is a workshop on St. Thomas that has laser cutters, woodworking equipment, and other fabrication tools as required.
  • It may be possible to metal cast needed parts onsite. 
  • Mechanical solutions must try to maximize water output while minimizing effort as some of the residents are older and/or are in poor health.
  • Solutions that will, in the end, allow for the population to source materials, assemble, and install are preferred.
  • Solutions that can be easily transported via plane/jeep are preferred.
  • There is limited access to materials from local hardware stores. Solutions that use found/upcycled materials are preferred.


Challenge #1: Desalinated Water


Problem: Most residents have easy access to seawater but it is unfit for consumption and other uses. Potable water is needed but so is merely desalinated water for many purposes. A low/zero cost approach to desalinating sea water is essential.


Solution: Develop a desalination technology or concept using found and/or upcycled materials. If power is required, the system may use upcycled solar panels. The preferred minimum desalination rate is 2L/hour.


Challenge #2: Sustainable Means of Cooking


Problem: In the USVI, most people cook with electrical or gas stoves; electricity is out in most areas and gas is hard to access. Instead, seawater can be used for cooking if it can be converted into useable fuel. Residents have access to seawater and non-potable water that can be electrolyzed to make hydrogen for cooking using upcycled solar panels.


Solution: Develop a safe and effective cook stove by electrolyzing water using upcycled solar panels. The cook stove does not need to dynamically make hydrogen while cooking (i.e. it can store compressed hydrogen made earlier). The cook stove needs the correct air/hydrogen mix to create a consistent flame while ensuring the system will not explode/catch on fire if operated incorrectly.


Challenge #3: Water Storage


Problem: Many residents on USVI use cisterns to collect rainwater and reuse as drinking water or non-potable water. These cisterns often lie below the home or apartment and use electric pumps to bring the water up to the faucet. When there is a loss of power, the residents cannot access the water.


Solution: Develop a cistern pump that is largely or entirely made from found/upcycled materials in the USVI that can pump water up at least two stories (10m+) and is either mechanically powered or uses upcycled solar panels. Pump must be made as cheaply as possible to enable wide distribution and access.


Challenge #4: Sustainable Food & Medicine Storage


Problem: Power outages quickly result in wasted food and medicines. Most USVI residents have refrigerators but need a way to keep a portion of the refrigerator or freezer cool for essential foods and medicines.


Solution: Develop a refrigeration system that uses existing freezer space to keep milk, medicines, and a few perishables cold using found/upcycled materials like solar panels. Solutions should not require disabling the existing refrigerator but may consist of refrigerator door modifications if they are reversible upon power restoration. There may be a need to source and import special components of the solution but the more upcycled/found materials used the better.


Challenge #5: Replacement Parts


Problem: Disaster recovery solutions sometimes require replacement or bespoke metal parts. A small, portable casting system that can safely melt found metals like galvanized and tin metal sheets used in roofing (all over the Caribbean), downed cabling and scrap metals from poles, nails/screws pulled from destroyed homes, and any other sources of metal using found wood from fallen trees and, if needed, power from upcycled solar panels (for blowers, venting, etc.)


Solution: This solution will likely consist of two parts, the ‘sandbox’ where the molten metal is poured (cast is made) and the kiln that can safely melt a host of metals using recovered wood from fallen trees. Galvanized sheet steel is the most common metal readily available but there are many sources around the communities to include aluminum cans. (Note: Melting galvanized metal produces zinc gasses, which can be toxic — this should be taken into account.) The kiln must be able to melt metals other than aluminum and the casting ‘sandbox’ must be able to accommodate hotter metals. It is preferred if the kiln can be reproduced in situ.


Additional Information:

  • The portable metal casting system will be operated, at least initially, by trained Field Ready staff and does not need to be scaled such that the population will have one. But plans for safe and large-scale casting systems would also be welcome.
  • Using fallen tree wood commonly found in USVI for the kiln is imperative.


Challenge #6: Telecommunications


Problem: Disasters often result in overloaded or destroyed communications infrastructure. Cell phone towers are damaged or overloaded, internet connectivity is sparse or non-existent, and traditional phone lines are often damaged or compromised. Providing the community with low cost ‘call boxes’ that connect neighborhoods with the local fire/police departments even when the communications infrastructure is damaged is much needed. Ideally, this call-box network would push information through the radios like a self-healing or ad hoc network so that there is no need for hierarchical coordination.


Solution: Using radios other than cell phones might be part of the solution, like Xbee or other similar radios, that can form their own network independent of existing infrastructure. The information passed to fire/police departments would ideally be voice messaging or real time voice communications but, at a minimum, text-like messaging. The system may operate off of upcycled solar panels and, if absolutely necessary, car batteries and inverters. The system must be extremely easy—from a human factors and operational perspective—to use but can be assembled and coded, if necessary, by Field Ready and Building Momentum engineers. The hardware for each call box, not including the wood/solar panels/batteries, must be as low cost as possible and minimize power usage when not in use. If keyboards and/or other I/Os are required ensure they are part of the total solution package.


Additional Information:

  • Using Arduino and/or Raspberry Pi is preferred as these are well known platforms for support and implementation.
  • Transmitters must be able to push data at least 5 km in free space.
  • Any code needs to be available to the Building Momentum and Field Ready team to edit, if needed, for different scenarios.
  • The ‘call box’ itself can be made in situ by the Field Ready team from a provided design using reclaimed wood and plywood, the communications hardware should leverage low cost components as much as possible.


Challenge #7: Maintaining Cleanliness for the Elderly


Problem: Following the storms, many residents are forced to wash clothes in sinks and need methods for rapidly drying the clothes (rain storms, high humidity, windy conditions, and lack of space hinder line-drying). Additionally, many residents have rain-soaked rugs, furniture, books, and other belongings that are difficult to dry on lines or in existing dryers when — and if — they can get to a laundromat.


Solution: Develop methods for rapidly drying clothes and other belongings using little or no power and found/upcycled materials.


Challenge #8: Traffic Control


Problem: During persistent/long term power outages, street lights no longer function resulting in traffic jams. Emergency responders, residents, and humanitarian efforts are hindered due to that traffic. Low powered traffic aids that are easily emplaced in (or near) existing lights, serve the same purpose of the existing lighting signals, and programmable for various turn/straight scenarios would greatly improve the reaction time of officials and aid workers. Staffing each lighted intersection with trusted personnel is not practical as most first responders are active in other tasks. Any proposed solution will be particularly helpful reducing this problem in future disasters.


Solution: Using a low powered processor, control a set of visual cues (light emitting and/or reflective) that take the place of and serve the same purpose of the non-powered lights. The replacement signal must be easily programmed by a removable programmer. The proposed system must be easily transportable and adaptable to standard lighting (3-light and 1-light). The system can be emplaced on the existing lighting, or just near/above/below without interfering with height clearances from existing lighting. The optimal power solution for the system is to implant-and-forget, meaning it will run indefinitely on the power sources. Solar power can be cumbersome for this scenario (and may be stolen), and large panels are not acceptable. If stored energy is the only solution it must run for 6 months before servicing/replacing the power source.


Additional Information:

  • Using Arduino and/or Raspberry Pi is preferred as these are well known platforms for support and implementation.
  • Any code needs to be available to the Building Momentum and Field Ready team to edit, if needed, for different scenarios.
  • Various shapes and modifications can be made to the physical structure in situ by the Field Ready team from a provided design using reclaimed wood/plywood and metal.
Choose at least one category.: 
Mission Organizers: 
How many? : 
Publishing Status: 
here is a teaser.
Design Brief: 


Project Implementation

Thank you to everyone who entered their projects both online, and directly to Brad. Below you'll see one of the entries that was tested on site by Field Ready.

Cistern Pump!



This mission is time sensitive, as people who are affected by these disasters are in immediate need of solutions. We’ll be closing this mission and implementing the solutions devised December 08th, 2017.

Field Ready has pinpointed eight categories of top-priority challenges that you can help with. We ask that you identify a problem where your unique maker powers could make a difference, then contribute your solutions as projects here. Field Ready can disseminate your instructions to its experts in the field who can get prototypes into production, and into the hands of those who really need it.

Choose a category of challenge from the list below. When creating a project, state in the first line which category you’re solving for so it can be easily forwarded on to the proper channels. All viable entries will be reviewed by experts on site and put into use as needed.

-Challenge #1 Desalinated Water-
Propose reliable means of obtaining usable water through desalination techniques. 

-Challenge #2 Sustainable Means of Cooking-
Propose a safe way of converting seawater and non-potable water to cooking fuel.

-Challenge #3 Water Storage-
Propose techniques to pump water up two stories (10 meters) using found or upcycled materials.

-Challenge #4 Sustainable Food & Medicine Storage-
Power existing refrigerators, using found/upcycled materials like solar panels, to keep milk, medicines and perishables cold.

-Challenge #5 Replacement Parts-
Propose a small, portable casting system that can safely melt found metals into replacement parts. Assume the use of recovered wood from fallen trees as a fuel source.

-Challenge #6 Telecommunications-
Propose a system for connecting neighborhoods with local fire/police departments when the communications infrastructure is damaged.

-Challenge #7 Maintaining Cleanliness for the Elderly and Disabled-
Propose a method of rapidly drying clothes and other belongings using little or no power when rain storms, high humidity, windy conditions, and lack of space hinder line-drying.

-Challenge #8 Traffic Control-
Propose a temporary traffic control system when traffic signals are out of commission. Assume a lack of personnel to post at most intersections. Your solution should be easily dropped into any intersection and simple enough to program to direct traffic to specific patterns and include a self-contained power source that could last for up to 6 months at a time.

Field Ready has access to fabrication tools (including woodworking, 3D printers, laser cutters, metal casting) that can be leveraged in the final solutions of projects, though upcycled and easily accessible materials are preferred. If creating an electronic/smart solution, Arduino and Raspberry Pi are preferred as they are both readily available and well known. 

The Make: team will make sure that all makers whose solutions are selected for testing or use by Field Ready teams are kept informed of the impact of their work. The results will be showcased on Maker Share and in Make: Magazine.

Consult the Rules & Instructions for additional details pertaining to each of the categories listed above. Immediate questions can be directed to Brad Halsey of Building Momentum via e-mail or Twitter.


Challenge 3 - Can you provide more detail on the current system used to pump water from the cistern to the point of use?

-What type of hose/pipe is typical for these systems (diameter, material, etc.).

-What type of pump is typically used under normal operation (will the pump prevent water from being moved through the pipe/hose when not operational)?

Is there a discussion forum for this project?

I have read all the material, design brief, rules & Instructions, etc. Nowhere do I find a place or a link to actually submit my suggestions to your 8 challenges. Please help as I have written responses to all 8 plus a bonus challenge which I addressed. Thank you.

Challenge 3.
Need pipe sizes, piping layout, with pump type and location relieve to cistern.
Does cistern have any access port or hatch?
A sketch, with typical layout would be most helpful.

Has anyone received a response to their questions?

All, I am trying to figure out how to respond to each of you. But maybe this is the best way to do it?

I can respond to each of you via email at [email protected] but I can try to address several questions here. Maybe we should start a Slack channel?

For Joe, the cisterns are generally plastic and on the ground. You can access the water through hatches. Piping and tubing varies. Probably best to not piggy back of existing infrastructure. Does this help?

Brad, maybe break it down by project. Each project gets its own page with participants. Questions can be directed to whomever and the project title will reflect in the question. Make it comparable to an email. Just suggesting.

Dwayne, I like the idea. Let me see if Make can do something like that. In the meanwhile I can answer questions like this or directly via email at [email protected]. Also, I can set up a Slack channel if people like using that.

Is there a deadline for designs? Any particular timing of this?