Hackerfarm Brings Light To Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has a long road to recovery, and part of this is the damaged infrastructure: much of the electricity distribution network was destroyed, and will take months or years to rebuild. The Japanese hacker group [Hackerfarm], founded by Hackaday friend [Akiba], is looking to help by sending some of their solar lanterns to provide off-grid light.

They’ve already shipped one batch, and are using the proceeds from sales of these paper lanterns to send more of them to Puerto Rico, where they will be given out to those who need them. The group has carried out similar projects before, distributing lanterns to Tsunami-hit areas of Japan and to Rwanda, where a women’s group builds and sells the lanterns. It seems like a great cause, and the design of the lanterns is pretty neat. We love that they provide an introduction to soldering and serve a higher purpose at the same time.

We’ve mentioned Hackerfarm before, both as part of a growing rural hackerspace scene, and because of their insane EL-wire creations and choreography. And [Akiba] gave a great talk at last year’s Supercon where he discussed the ins and outs of getting virtually anything done in Shenzhen. Check it out if you haven’t already.

64 thoughts on “Hackerfarm Brings Light To Puerto Rico

        1. Because ad hominem is the refuge of someone who doesn’t have a proper counter-argument?

          Neither of you has addressed their point. How is this more efficient than sending a container shipload of $1 solar garden lights? About the only plus I see is that this DIY design is easier to repair, unless the special IC dies. Failure of the NiMH pack, wiring, or solar cell is probably more common. The cheapo garden lights tend to fail due to the plastic coating on the solar cells deteriorating, which is why you see dialight

          Easier to repair…but these aren’t weather-sealed, they’re not durable (look at the way the panel and PCB are connected for example), they don’t include a diffuser, etc.

          This group has been making solar lanterns for a long time. We have a couple, and they use high-quality glass, not plastic, covered cells. They’re very durable, contain a built-in diffuser, and have a DC charging jack. Sounds like the org uses profits to donate lights. http://www.dlight.com

      1. I don’t know. Perhaps they will be persuaded, by reduced fire hazard, and redused annoying, if not noxious emissions. As they failed I didn’t replace my wick lanterns that I used for camping and/or during power failed was gas mantle lanterns. In the Over time people who no have to purchase fuel would pay for the gravity light. In the even’t I’d purchase solar or gravity emergency lighting, I probably would hang onto the gas mantle lanterns because they would be superior in many application. However I wouldn’t use them indoors because when the power is out I don’t have pressurized water to fight a fire with.

        1. Yah, nothing says “I value your time and realise you have important stuff to do at night.” more than disturbing someone three times an hour to service their lighting solution. Result probably 1/2 hour of actual things done per hour, with the stopping, getting up, getting settled back to it, and possibly watching the light to see if it’s near the bottom yet in the last few minutes if you’re trying to do something that you can’t easily put down in the dark.

    1. nice.

      so 100mW for 20 mins by lifting a 12kg wait 1.8m up.

      potential energy E = m * g * z = 12kg * 9.81m/s^2 * 1.8m = 212 Joule = 59 mWh

      used energy = 100mW . 1/3h = 33.33 mWh

      so that’s roughly 50% efficiency, i feel like they can do (a lot) better.

      1. Friction is a bitch.

        They seem to have some plastic gears and belts in a plastic case, so 50% could very well be a thing here.

        Let me estimate the “cheap” gears at 90% (I found no details about the construction) and the electro motor at 90% and we are already at 81%. And belt drives can be pretty bad, so I assume 90% for the gear box is too high.

  1. You obviously never bought one of those 1$ solar garden lamps because then you would know that they are crap and only give a miniscule amount of “light”. Not nearly enough to actually illuminate anything.

    1. do they give 1/10th the light? have you measured this? I was actually asking a question. I doubt the physics of the LED lamps being proffered here are much different than the ones available in a garden lamp. I don’t think bespoke manufacturing of paper lanterns is really going to compete with mass-manufacture of an essentially trivial item, but feel free to actually discuss the matter instead of just dismissing it out of hand.

      1. Not these days, they’re collected at a central recycling location…

        … then sent to a 3rd world country where a 5 year old bites them open and spits the metals into a different bowl than the depleted electrolyte.

    1. Compassionate much? Please stop believing mainstream media. Puerto Rico has never gotten much from the US. The reason for their economic downfall was not the people’s fault but the fault of extreme corruption in the political system. Remind you of a country?

      1. “Puerto Rico has never gotten much from the US. ”

        You must be smoking some pretty good crack rock !

        FYI – Puerto Rico has received – annually from the US, $21 BILLION dollars of taxpayer dollars for their welfare programs ! They demanded the Navy leave (I was a young O3 – Navy Lieutenant at the time). So I know first hand how ungreatful they are. As evidenced by their so called “mayor” disrespecting President Trump.

        1. The Mayor is imcompetent. The reason the Navy was asked to leave is because they were testing explosives in Vieques (134 sq. miles) without any care for the residents nor wildlife. Should PRicans be grateful for the Navy coming in and doing whatever they wanted without asking for their consent? I’d like to see how you’d feel if that happened in your city. Just because the Navy could doesn’t mean they should! Could be said it was lack of a moral compass. As far as numbers go, those can be created in someone’s head for innumerable reasons. If the US had always had the best interest of the Puerto Rican people (non-deserving to many such as yourself), believe me their story would have been completely different. However, that is besides the point. What makes us human is the ability to care and be compassionate towards other humans beings during the worst of times; being a hero! It’s one’s choice to find the humanity in oneself.

        2. sub_driver – Listen “bubblehead’* – you and Vanessa are mistaken. PR was supposed to be our 51st state and may yet still happen if someone in US Congress pushes for it. They are no different than let’s say Massachusetts or Connecticut. They deserve our taxpayer money and our help like any other state or territory. Hawaii was a territory once. Would you be so callous about them, or American Samoa or Guam? And no Carmen (SJ Mayor) did not DISRESPECT Trump. That’s just TrumPET propaganda. She only was under great stress and forgot to go to the FEMA UNIFIED COMMAND meetings. That does not make her incompetent Vanessa, only human!

          Brock (DirFEMA) should have embedded a journalist with those meetings and then we would have known what he was doing in PR. We had no way of knowing those 10,000 Conway freight containers on the SJ docks were not FEMA. However, 3,000 of them in fact were. Carmen jumped to conclusions and did not go political as Trump lied about. She just wanted help for her constituents but was ill-informed by FEMA (Brock).

          How about how Trump disrespected the PR’s by throwing paper towel rolls at them, mocking their accent, and comparing them to Katrina in a negative way? Why didn’t he fly the WH flag at half-staff for PR’s 38 dead like he did LV’s 59 dead? Both groups were bona-fide natural born American citizens.

          Vieques should have never happened. The USN occupied the west and east side and the civvies and wildlife were in the center. The bombing range was on the eastern side. Why not look for an unoccupied island in the Caribbean. There are many not that far away.

          *bubblehead – not an insult – he knows what I mean…

    2. LOL not only a troll, that I’m feeding, but one more hypocrite that cites a god, and cherry picks the dogma. As Kansan I find it hilarious that the Kansas farmer was use to represent independance from aid. Kansas has receive billions in agricultural aid from the Federal government, the bulk of it workfare that’s not disaster related. The farmer get that because they expect the legislators they help send to Washington DC to demand it. In state the higher taxes and fee paid by other sectors subsidizes the lower fees and taxes of the agricultural sector. Only the choir this jerk is talking to would believe the Puerto Ricans weren’t picking up the pieces as soon as it was safe to, in that regard they aren’t any different than any other US citizen. Good thing that the most of the world stands that turkeys like this aren’t representative of the best the USA and the USN have to offer.

  2. and these are better/more cost-effective than the $1 solar garden lamps because…
    – more light
    – two batteries instead of one
    – two solar cells
    – more useful form-factor
    – they look more robust (final quality is of course down to the skills of whoever assembles them)
    – repairable, modifiable
    – “teach someone to fish” vs just giving them a fish

    1. They’re not teaching anyone anything. And people who have very little, do not need to be given things that require upkeep. How is this more robust? It’s dangling components, no weatherproofing or enclosure, etc.

      It’s also one battery, not two, if you bother to look.

      DiLight sells their light for a few dollars more and they’re an international org set up to do this sort of thing, and the lights are much more durable.

  3. Nice job acting like a total douchebag with no empathy, who cares about the actual people without electricity? forget some guys helping them, they are morons who dont understand how to make a profit, its much more important that the people who need help get subpar crap from banggood aliexpress or where-ever that breaks within a week, because by god, you may inadvertently pay for this indirectly (taxes/government-funder-charity) and that surely doesn’t fly with your values, fuck other people, right?

    If i had a say in it i would’ve removed your HaD account on the spot, your a egocentric fool, and in case you didnt notice yet HaD has all these contests about helping your fellow man, so you and your weird skewed view literally dont belong here.

    Go away.

    1. Sheesh man, you are being extremely harsh. The amount of assumptions you make about what Aleks is thinking or is potentially implying is ridiculous. I am glad that you do NOT have a say in whose accounts should be removed.

    2. Yes exactly! Because HaD is never about asking whether there is a better way to help, and nothing anyone does should be an efficient use of resources. Everyone owns everything, so clearly just throw shit at PR until it gets better right?
      Ok, now that we’ve gotten that out of our system, bravo @AleksClark for asking questions. Sorry that people with severe mental baggage want to dump on you.

    3. Funny how you’re the one spitting insults and profanity.

      The question is one of opportunity cost. And giving money to a couple of hackers who are building these things in their spare time isn’t nearly as effective as giving money to a group like DiLight.

  4. What this article doesn’t state is that the first batch was 100% donation from Hacker farm to Puerto Rico. Hacker farm is also running a one-for-one campaign where they will send a lantern to PR for every one sold on their site. The distribution of the lanterns is also being personally managed in Puerto Rico by a photojournalist who has run successful aid campaigns to an Iraqi orphanage at the start of the 2nd Gulf War, villagers in need from the 2004 Indonesia tsunami, and victims of the 2010 sister island Haiti earthquake. Rather than discuss specs and logistics, let us globally band together and offer whatever aid we can to help those In need. Pick a disaster and just help! Namaste!

    1. No doubt some would judge me naive, but I not so naive to put much stock in the Orwell quote. Orwell wasn’t being totally honest or he would have added a caveat. Always be mindful that within that group of rough mean there may be individuals that would cut your throat if there was anything for them to gain for doing so. There are shades of gray in the natural world, your dark glasses are to better or worse than rose colored glasses

    2. Yes, I agree. Blindly donating to corporations who pay millions to their CEOs is naive. However, the person managing the distribution of these lanterns in PR happens to be my brother. If you want to donate great, if you don’t, prayers are wonderful!

  5. The $1 solar garden lamps are pretty useless. Just about enough light to see the lamp itself, they don’t illuminate anything.

    I suppose you could hack together a few of them into something that could power a proper bright LED. But if this group can get the parts cheaper than by scrapping garbage solar lanterns, that’s the best solution.

    5 rechargeable AAA batteries and NV googles and you have complete night vision system for 50′ (15 m) tunnel vision. No solar lamps, no candles, no torches (aka flashlights) etc. No one can see you wearing this crazy-looking thing at night but you can see them. If you need to be up at night here is a possible solution. We at HaD could design one (hack one) to be used in PR and elsewhere. Also need to send oodles of alkaline AAA batteries or figure out how to recharge them with a hand stroke generator.


    1. Here’s a goggle view from NV Goggles (NVG). I’s pretty much tunnel vision and monochromatic – BUT better than nothing. Never throw away the batteries. They can be recharged – even alkalines too. Only needs 7vdc or 9vdc to power the NVG. You could recharge with solar cells during the day, or hand crank, or water wheel. And only use for critical night sojourns; conserve batteries. I know I mispelled GOGGLES in original posting above :-D


  7. It does seem that cost per lumen is probably lower with the solar garden lamps.
    However the paper lanterns do emit a pleasant warm white light, are easier to hang up and there is something to say about receiving something handmade(is it?). It is difficult(impossible?) to express such a thing in a cost-effective calculation.

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