Time for Something Positive for Once : Engineering for Social Change


Hey all, with all the shit spew of terrible things happening, I wanted to take this opportunity to just do a post that’s a bit more easy going and even hope filled. So I’m an engineer (or engiqueer as I prefer, I unfortunately can’t claim that one) and my biggest dream is using my skills to make lives better. One big project I’m working on in particular is a control board and means to measure turbidity (water clarity) for a water purification system to be used in the developing world. The story behind this whole dream started back in 2015 when I was at the Open Source Hardware Summit right here in Philly and one team in particular had a presentation that floored me. They were two people who grew up in developing countries with pretty nasty backgrounds and they got together and created a whole bunch of high tech protester tools. I can’t do everything they did nearly enough justice so here’s their site http://www.backslash.cc/ . All of it is really awesome and it was so refreshing to see, in a world that goes against a lot of my beliefs (I’m a queer anarchist, the engineering biz can get a bit tough for our morals), that stuff like this was possible.

I have a pretty deep punk history and did Food Not Bombs for a couple years from ’07 to ’09 and that was something I pushed to the side when I started on my engineering path. Partially because my early 20s sucked haaaard, partially because when you’re in it it’s easy even for a girl who bleeds purple and black to get sidetracked. After seeing their presentation though it was such a joy to see that I really didn’t need to abandon my morals to do things I love doing. After that, old me was back and better than ever because now I had a bit more focus on what I was angry at.

So now that I have a clear goal I wanted to share a couple concepts I’ve had in the past year or so [note – most of these are concept only and not all are entirely practical]:

  • Discrete, arm mounted camera module activated by motion. When arms go up, the camera starts to roll. Potential for live streaming.
  • Wrist band or necklace that when activated either alerts emergency responders or small group of friends or family in the event of potential drugging, violence, or date rape.
  • A jacket affectionately called “The Mace Coat” by one of my best friends and I. Within the coat is pockets lined with mace. Pull the hood down as a face cover and pull a cord, a cloud of mace surrounds you to deter potential attackers.
  • Come to think of it, a coat that just has a respirator built in would be a really good idea.
  • Open source system for composting, makes composting easier by taking temperature measurements and sending status messages to verify health of the compost.
  • Fully automated container garden system taking multiple measurements again to make growing food easier.

Those are the most notable ones. While my skills progress and I gain more access to the tools and equipment I need (this and this have been fantastic) there will be plenty more and expect some skill posts here too. I think I’ll do one pretty soon once I narrow down what it could be, probably simple through hole soldering or using KiCAD. That’s all for now folks, this girl’s got a lot of work to catch up on. See you all soon.


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