Making A Halloween Costume Fit For 2020

All across the country, parents are wondering what to do about the upcoming Trick Or Treat season. Measures such as social distancing, contact free treats, or simply doing it at home are all being weighed as a balance of fun and safety. [BuildXYZ] has decided to lean into the challenges this year and incorporate a mask as part of the costume for his boys.

It started with a 3d printed mask, printed in two halves, and sealed with silicon caulk and N95 filter material in the inlet and outlet holes on the sides. The real magic of the mask is the small OLED screen mounted to the front that works along with a small electret microphone inside the mask. By sampling the microphone and applying a rolling average, the Arduino Nano determines if the mouth drawn on the display should be open or closed. A small battery pack on a belt clip (with a button to flash “Trick or Treat” on the screen) powers the whole setup and can be easily hidden under a cape or costume.

This isn’t the first hack we’ve seen for Halloween this year, such as this socially distant candy slide. We have a feeling that there will be many more as the month rolls on and people start to apply their ingenuity to the season.

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The Mask Launcher; Like An Airbag For Your Face

One of the most effective ways to slow the spread of pathogens like the novel coronavirus is to have individuals wear facemasks that cover the nose and mouth. They’re cheap, and highly effective at trapping potentially infectious aerosols that spread disease. Unfortunately, wearing masks has become a contentious issue, with many choosing to go without. [Allen Pan] was frustrated by this, and set out to make a launcher to quite literally shoot masks directly onto faces.

To fire the masks, Allan built a pneumatic system that gets its power from a compact CO2 canister. This is hooked up to a solenoid, which is fired by the trigger. The high-pressure CO2 then goes through a split to four separate barrels cleverly made out of brake line ([Allen] says it’s faster to get parts from the automotive supply than the home store these days). Each barrel fires a bola weight attached to one of the strings of the mask, in much the same way a net launcher works. The mask is then flung towards the face of the target, and the weights wrap around the back of the neck, tangling and ideally sticking together thanks to neodymium magnets.

Amazingly, the mask worked first time, wrapping effectively around a dummy head and covering the nose and mouth. Follow-up shots were less successful, however, but that didn’t deter [Allen] from trying the device on himself at point-blank range. Despite the risk to teeth and flesh, the launcher again fires a successful shot.

While it’s obviously never meant to be used in the real world, the mask launcher was a fun way to experiment with pneumatics and a funny way to start the conversation about effective public health measures. We’ve featured similar projects before, too. Video after the break.

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Microwave Modified For Disinfecting

We’re all hopefully a little more concerned about health these days, but with that concern comes a growing demand for products like hand sanitizer, disinfectant, and masks. Some masks are supposed to be single-use only, but with the shortage [Bob] thought it would be good if there were a way to sanitize things like masks without ruining them. He was able to modify a microwave oven to do just that.

His microwave doesn’t have a magnetron anymore, which is the part that actually produces the microwaves for cooking. In its place is an ultraviolet light which has been shown to be effective at neutralizing viruses. The mask is simply placed in the microwave and sterilized with the light. He did have to make some other modifications as well since the magnetron isn’t always powered up when cooking, so instead he wired the light into the circuit for the turntable so that it’s always powered on.

Since UV can be harmful, placing it in the microwave’s enclosure like this certainly limits risks. However, we’d like to point out that the mesh on the microwave door is specifically designed to block microwaves rather than light of any kind, and that you probably shouldn’t put your face up to the door while this thing is operating. Some other similar builds have addressed this issue. Still, it’s a great way to get some extra use out of your PPE.

A Properly Engineered UV Chamber For PPE Sanitization

Designed to be used once and then disposed of, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 face masks proved to be in such short supply during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic that getting a few extra uses out of them by sanitizing them after a shift seemed smart. And so we saw a bunch of designs for sanitizing chambers, mostly based on UV-C light and mostly, sad to say, somewhat dodgy looking. This UV-C disinfection chamber, though, looks like a much better bet.

The link above is to the final installment of a nine-part series by [Jim] from Grass Roots Engineering. The final article has links to all the earlier posts, which go back [Jim]’s early research on UV-C sanitization methods back in March. This led him to settle on an aquarium sanitizer as his UV-C source. A second-hand ultraviolet meter allowed him to quantify the lamp’s output and plan how best to use it, which he did using virtual models of various styles of masks.  Knowing that getting light on every surface of the mask is important, he designed a mechanism to move the mask around inside a reflective chamber. The finished chamber, which can be seen in the video below, is 3D-printed and looks like it means business, with an interlock for safety and a Trinket for control.

We love the level of detail [Jim] put into these posts and the thoughtful engineering approach he took toward this project. And we appreciate his careful testing, too — after all, it wouldn’t do to use a germicidal lamp that actually doesn’t emit UV-C.

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Self-Shutting Face Mask Is Hacker’s Delight

Most of us currently have to deal with wearing face masks in our daily life. An experience that is not entirely pleasurable as it is more difficult to breathe under the mask and can become hot after a while. In addition, you have to take off the mask whenever you want to eat or drink. [DesignMaker] has attempted to solve these problems by creating a mask with an opening that shuts automatically when other people are nearby.

While homemade masks are usually made from fabric [DesignMaker]’s version is much more to a hacker’s taste and includes 3D-printed parts, an Arduino Nano, PIR sensors, an SG90 servo, and some Neopixels. [DesignMaker]’s background in industrial design certainly helped him when modeling the mask as it looks just plain awesome.

His goal was to use PIR sensors to detect when a person is moving nearby. The servo then shuts an opening located at the mouth part of the mask. However, he soon found out that the mask often shuts when nobody is around. The reason is that the sensor can be triggered by ambient IR radiation when it is moving by itself. In the end [DesignMaker] decided that having the mask shut when you are moving is not a bug, it’s a feature.

Of course, the mask is just a prop and should not be used as protective equipment. As shown in the video below, also the false triggering of the PIR sensors can be annoying at times. But [DesignMaker] is already thinking of improvements like having the mask properly sealed with fabric or replacing the PIR sensors by a camera with face detection.

If you want to learn how to sew a proper fabric face mask have a look here. It’s a lot less ridiculous, but a lot more effective. You can’t have everything.

Video after the break.

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Mass Mask-Making Masterclass

Just as 3D printers around the world have been churning out face shields, the thread injectors of home sewists have been stitching up fabric masks. Over the past several weeks, [Becky Stern] has made them for friends, family, neighbors, and anyone in her community who happens upon the box of free masks she’s left at a nearby bus stop. This is in addition the scores she has made and donated to health care workers so they can extend the life of their N95 masks.

If you’re going to make more than a few of anything, it just makes sense to make multiples at the same time and adjust the process for batch production. [Becky Stern] has some great ideas for ramping up assembly even further that include cutting out multiple main mask pieces at the same time, and ironing the pleats of several masks round robin style so you don’t waste time while they cool.

Even if you don’t dabble in the fabric arts, her method of kitting out the process of mask making is an interesting look into small-scale production.

Our favorite idea concerns the side bindings and the straps, which are the last part of the build and take the longest to do. [Becky] makes several miles of straps ahead of time with a 3D printed bias tape folder and then sews them all into a continuous strip. She can add the short side bindings to a bunch of masks at once, feeding them in one after the other so they end up strung together like sausages. Then she can just snip them apart and keep going, having saved both time and thread. Watch [Becky] make a single mask after the break and see how easy it is.

If sewing is a no-go for you, there are plenty of ways to help the PPE effort by firing up that printer.

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Hackaday Links: March 22, 2020

Within the span of just two months, our world of unimaginable plenty and ready access to goods manufactured across the globe has been transformed into one where the bare essentials of life are hard to find at any price. The people on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19 are suffering supply chain pinches too, often at great risk to their health. Lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE), especially face masks, is an acute problem, and the shortage will only exacerbate the problem as healthcare workers go down for the count. Factories are gearing up to make more masks, but in the meantime, the maker and hacker community can pitch in. FreeSewing, an open-source repository of sewing patterns, has a pattern for a simple face mask called the Fu that can be made quickly by an experienced threadworker. Efficacy of the masks made with that pattern will vary based on the materials used, obviously; a slightly less ad hoc effort is the 100 Million Mask Challenge, where volunteers are given a pattern and enough lab-tested materials to make 100 face masks. If you know how to sew, getting involved might make a difference.

As people around the world wrap their heads around the new normal of social distancing and the loss of human contact, there’s been an understandable spike in interest in amateur radio. QRZ.com reports that the FCC has recorded an uptick in the number of amateur radio licenses issued since the COVID-19 outbreak, and license test prep site HamRadioPrep.com has been swamped by new users seeking to prepare for taking the test. As we’ve discussed, the barrier for entry to ham radio is normally very low, both in terms of getting your license and getting the minimal equipment needed to get on the air. One hurdle aspiring hams might face is the cancellation of so-called VE testing, where Volunteer Examiners administer the written tests needed for each license class. Finding a face-to-face VE testing session now might be hard, but the VEs are likely to find a way to adapt. After all, hams were social distancing before social distancing was cool.

The list of public events that have been postponed or outright canceled by this pandemic is long indeed, with pretty much everything expected to draw more than a handful of people put into limbo. The hacking world is not immune, of course, with many high-profile events scuttled. But we hackers are a resourceful bunch, and the 10th annual Open Source Hardware Summit managed to go off on schedule as a virtual meeting last week. You can watch the nearly eight-hour livestream while you’re self-isolating. We’re confident that other conferences will go virtual in the near-term too rather than cancel outright.

And finally, if you’re sick of pandemic news and just want some escapist engineering eye candy, you could do worse than checking out what it takes to make a DSLR camera waterproof. We’ve honestly always numbered cameras as among the very least waterproof devices, but it turns out that photojournalists and filmmakers are pretty rough on their gear and expect it to keep working even so. The story here focuses (sorry) on Olympus cameras and lenses, which you’ll note that Takasu-san only ever refers to as “splash-proof”, and the complex system of O-rings and seals needed to keep water away from their innards. For our money, the best part was learning that lenses that have to change their internal volume, like zoom lenses, need to be vented so that air can move in and out. The engineering needed to keep water out of a vented system like that is pretty impressive.