Tokyo Hackerspace Helping Disaster Victims

We, like the rest of the world, have watched in horror as footage of the recent earthquake-caused disaster has been reported from northern Japan. It’s easy to watch video and see nothing but distruction, however, life goes on and [Akiba] is looking for a way to help the recovery efforts. He mentions that one of the big needs in the disaster area right now is for light, as the power infrastructure has been heavily damaged. The mason jar seen above is a Kimono Lantern that was meant to accent a garden at night. It has a solar cell – one NiMH rechargeable battery – and one bright LED along with a charging circuit. It was designed in the Tokyo Hackerspace and they released the build files in hopes that a large number can be donated to those in need. With a reasonable amount of daylight, the single cell battery can be charged enough to provide 10 hours of light from the little device.

How can our hacks help others? That question has been on our minds for the last few days. Light is a great first step. But we’ve also wondered about information networks to help coordinate rescue and cleanup workers. There are hacks that bring WiFi using wind power or solar power. What other hacks do you think would be useful to aid in the recovery process?

36 thoughts on “Tokyo Hackerspace Helping Disaster Victims

  1. Fantastic cause. Who’s going to coordinate the shipping over there and will they arrive BEFORE infrastructure starts being restored?

    I could make at least sixty of these with my buddies over the weekend if I knew they’d get to their destinations in time to be helpful.

  2. @dan fruzzetti
    You can take them along to your local red cross center or police station, they should beable to move them along to the correct destination for you sharpish.

  3. @Dan Fruzzetti: Wow, sixty is a huge commitment, good for you!

    It looks like they’re using donations to buy the electronics and the hackerspace is supplying the jars. So I would think if you can assemble the hardware module and ship it to the hackerspace that would be fantastic.

    Your best bet is to us [Akiba’s] contact form and see what he says.

  4. Very cool device. But I just have to say, Japan probably has a bunch more solar tech then we do and a decent economy, I would focus more on what they really need right now: food, water, and rescue at this point.

    This would have been perfect for Haiti.

  5. @Volectorus: The guys that created this hack are members of the Tokyo hackerspace. I think they may be more qualified than you or I to say what the Japanese people do, or don’t, have available to them at the moment…

  6. water.

    properly purifying polluted water can be a difficult thing, but there are numerous hacker-friendly ways to pre-process water. contraptions made of cloth, sand, buckets, stone, charcoal, etc. can make the actual purification easier, or even clean up slightly polluted water enough for bathing.

  7. an amazing idea that shows the determination and innovativeness that the Japanese have, is there a site where people can donate to have these sent out? I imagine they are extremely cost effective to produce too which is good because its a good way of recycling an old jar.

  8. Seal off the LED from the main jar, and fill it with water, you’ll amplify your light emission bu quite a bit. Along the same lines as thouse 2litre water filled plastic bottles people are sticking through their roofs.

  9. I just ripped all the solar light fixtures out of my front and back yards — who the hell really needs accent lights anyway. It worked out to 32, which was sadly shy of 60; I still expect to be able to talk my nerdy friends into the same thing. I think we could make it happen.

    I’m noticing the panels on my models are covered in an acrylic that hasn’t held up well to the sunlight. I’m wondering, should I remove it, exposing the solar panel to damage, or should I attempt to buff it with some low-speed, high-grit polishing compound, to get the best effect?

    Do these need to work forever or just help people feel more in charge of their own lives for now? How is the current weather over there — do they get a lot of sunlight? We could also ship our windup flashlights and flashlight-radios over there, too.

    Would anyone want to send printed plans for the simplest possible exercise-bike-generators?

    Now just to change bulbs and call my local red cross; THANKS for the suggestions, hackaday and readers!!!

  10. This is a brilliant idea.

    However I’d be concerned about quality control of those units supplied by hobbyists – there would need to be a testing frameork in place to ensure that faulty units didn’t get sent out there.

    Anyway, this is terrific and very generous.

  11. While well intentioned, this effort will be too little too late and shows utter ignorance of how aid is best distributed in a disaster area. Send money through an organized charity instead.

    By the time any of these easily broken (shipping glass to Japan, are you kidding me?) make it to the area of need, professional disaster workers will have long filled the need for light at night with far more robust solutions.

    If you feel you must send a solar rechargeable light, just send the garden light itself, that is already securely packaged for shipment and made of safer materials.

  12. Camping stuff? in freezing winter! No they should all flee to Tokyo! I think you should work at evacuation centers which need electricity & satalite dishes

    A scrap van/boat engine needs to be hacked together with a mains electric motor to improvise a generator.

    Work out how to hack into lamp posts either to make them work or to extract electric (with permission)

    If folks send U money, you could buy kit satalite dishes from an electrical store. either for TV or internet conectivity with WiFi hotspots.

    Wood burners can be improvised with a metal veg oil container cut open. A length of flexy flue or metal drain pipe as a chimley. Theres plenty of fire wood but they might need a wood saw.

    car or mobile phone GPS could be really useful for finding precise locations when walking over huge piles of rubble.

    kit out a vehicle with tech and get out there.

    Make a mobile shower for decontamination?

    info on radiation

    Some of the foreign rescue crews might need tech support in Tokyo, or some work space.

  13. Ham radio is set up for exactly the purpose of disaster communications. Its sad, amateur radio is a dieing art, but when something like this happens and nobody’s cell phones work anymore, HAM’s can still comunicate.

  14. @Roger: The big problem with tapping into lamp post here is that 90% of all power here in Japan is supplied by overhead power cables. In my town lamp post are connect only by overhead cables which would have been destroyed in the disaster.

    Batteries only have a finite life and generators need fuel, so having solar lighting is a great idea. It will keep the generators powering rescue equipment longer.

  15. Hi all. Sorry, I’ve been so busy with everything that didn’t even see that this made it on Hackaday. We’re mobilizing a lot of efforts right now.

    Reuseum ( sold us two nuclear facility grade geiger counters from his stock. We also bought 10 geiger tubes from eBay. We’ll be setting up a radiation monitoring network around Tokyo soon.

    We’ve also stockpiled 6 Wi-Fi routers and I have some high power antennas that we’ll be using. We’ll be running tests this weekend to see the longest link we can make. Another member will be setting up an Asterisk server and VoIP connection and we’ll be testing to see how it works. If we get it going, we’ll be buying up all the used routers we can find in Akihabara and training relief workers on how to deploy them. We’re probably going to start going up there next month as well when civilians are allowed back in.

    The lanterns will be needed for a while. Power won’t be restored in the area for at least a few months, and will probably be very limited at best. Utility resources are spread very thing right now. We currently have parts for 50 complete sets coming in about a week and a half. We have another 100 coming in about 2.5 weeks. We’re targeting getting supplies out in about 3-4 weeks. That will be when search and rescue start leaving and the news vans go away. At that time, the people up there will really need a lot of help. It’s very similar to Katrina and we have a few members in the space that worked on Katrina relief as well.

    Thanks for posting this on HackADay and hopefully this and other designs that we’ll be making will be helpful in the next crisis that occurs in the world.

    Stay safe everyone!


  16. As a fellow member of ths, Id like to add that we dont intend to send glass up there. Also, keep in mind that many undamaged rural areas with high concentrations of elderly staying in their homes are without power. Japan will be under rolling blackouts for may months to come.

    And finally, the most immediate threats are food, water, clothing, blankets, and temporary shelters. Also, we dont often think of children’s needs in long term shelter life. We tend to treat everyone as an adult. Small simple toys, diapers, and feeding bottles will be needed.
    Donate all of the above to reputable charities asap.

  17. What never ceases to amaze me is the keyboard hecklers. Some good hearted individuals make an honest effort to help, whether a perfect solution or not and instead of saying things like “You need to use plastic jars instead of glass ones.” The utter social ineptitude of persons with nothing nice to say and not even a base skill level in positive criticism spews forth.

    The light jars are not a bad Idea. If they were plastic it would improve it a lot. Then before that jar is shipped take up local donations and fill that bottle with things like a water filter straw, some camping toilet paper, female sanitary supplies, travel size antiseptic(make sure to squeeze all the air out) and a couple of energy bars. Walgreens occasionally has plastic drinking bottles already filled with much of this for less than 3 US $ each. We pass them out to homeless people and they generally love them.

    Oh, BTW,most of the “shaker” flashlights are BS. Take one apart some time the coil usually isn’t even connected past the edge of the circuit board and most of the time the metal slug in them has less magnetism than a 90 year old bar fly. We put the little dynamo flashlights in the bottles we give out to the homeless. They actually work.

    If anyone had reasonable amounts of cash adding a few Potassium Iodide tablets to each bottle also wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    Further proof that hackers have heart…
    Keep up the good work.
    Don’t listen to individuals who know how to type but not how to think.


  18. Every damn garden store and dollar store has the solar cell gardenlights, wtf do they mean they ‘released’ build files? And japan is near china so they can get them even cheaper than the US/EU and can ship boatloads.
    And trust me those gardenlights are the cheapest way, in fact to get the parts to build that jar you’d probably have to gut a gardenlight right?

  19. Perhaps some aluminum foil would help. If jar sits on table, it would help redirect the light outward. Perhaps some taped at a 45 degree angle above jar bottom. Even just wrapped 1/3 the way around the jar on the outside, shiney side inward, and taped or held in place with a rubberband if on outside. {wanted to say ‘rubberbanded in place’ but it just sounds wonky :) } Many candleholders were made more “efficient” with simple reflectors- kept light where you wanted it and out of your eyes to preserve vision in dim light.

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