Thank you to all the people that donated money, time, parts, and emotional support for what was the craziest week in probably all of our lives. It was completely surreal. I don’t think Hollywood could have even made a movie that would compare to what went on last week. With a massive earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown, blackouts, and basic food and water shortages, all occurring at roughly the same time, it felt like the world was ending.
Most of us spent the weekend in growing horror as the Fukushima nuclear plant spiraled out of control. In between the videos of the nuclear plant explosions, images of the tsunami uprooting houses plastered the television screen. Going to the local convenience store to pick up food became a massive undertaking as the media was describing the nuclear fallout from the explosions. Once you got to the convenience store, your choices seemed to be potato chips and mayonnaise.
People were freaking out right and left and most of the worst came from our friends and families outside the US. On Tuesday, the radiation levels in Tokyo spiked due to the explosions at the plant. That was also the day of the Tokyo Hackerspace weekly meeting. The people that went to that meeting had to brave nuclear debris, extremely reduced train service, possible blackouts (which leaves you stranded), and radiation exposure to get to that meeting. At the time, there were very few discussions on how many microsieverts were safe levels of exposure. The main headlines were nuclear explosion and fallout. People were fleeing Tokyo and we were all trying to get to the hackerspace meeting.
At the meeting, we were making solar lanterns and discussing what needed to be done. We also UStreamed it for people that couldn't make it out. The situation was pretty bad in Tokyo, but other than the potential nuclear disaster and rolling blackouts, most of the problems were caused by mass hysteria. A lot of us were angry at the international media for making a bad situation almost unbearable. The main point that came out of the meeting was that the people that were suffering the most were the tsunami and earthquake survivors and we needed to get plans going on what to do to help them. The Kimono lantern project was already set in motion and we decided on the other projects that were needed.
The result of that was MRE’s post on Japan in Crisis. Since then, we’ve had a huge show of support from individuals and hackerspaces, much more than we ever expected. We now have quite a few projects going on and on top of that, we’re also working with the local foodbank and disaster relief groups. All of the help, support, emails, donations, efforts, reposts, fundraising drives, and everything else gave us the emotional stamina necessary to look beyond our immediate situations and see what really needed to be done. We’re also grateful to all of the Tokyo Hackerspace members, both here and abroad, who are amazing people contributing whatever they can to the efforts and watching each other’s backs. When shit was going down, the email list was buzzing to try and confirm if anyone was hurt or missing. We eventually located everyone, including Torsten who was living in Sendai, one of the sites hit hard by the earthquake and tsunami. One of the hackerspace members was finally able to contact him three days after the quake.
Here is the partial list of the projects that are currently being undertaken. There will be more to come as Japan exits the "crisis" stage and enters the "rebuilding" stage.
This list is reposted from the Tokyo Hackerspace mailing list.
1. Geiger Network - Setup distributed array of geiger counters and feed data into Pachube
- Pachube has allowed free premium accounts for setting up geiger feeds in Japan. They want Tokyo Hackerspace to set up an account and we will have unlimited feeds.
- 2 professional geiger counters are already shipped out to us and should come early this week
- 10 geiger tubes are ordered and should be arriving late this week or early next week
- Shigeru Kobayashi who designed the Gainer board and Funnel IO has put together a Processing interface to upload geiger data to Pachube
- SEEED studio has started a collaborative open source HW effort for geiger counters which will be completely open:
- We'll be collaborating with SEEED studio and Libelium on the design and validation. We'll help more once we can free up more time
- Special thanks to Reuseum for getting us nuclear facility grade geiger counters on short notice.
Actions Needed: design circuit, make PCB, test
2. Solar Lanterns - Make lanterns to provide light at night to areas with no power
- 150 solar cells are on their way to us and should arrive late this week
- 175 printed circuit boards are on their way and should arrive 3/28 and 3/29
- Remaining parts to be sourced locally
- Many hackerspaces and people are putting together lantern PCBs on their own and will send them to us when finished or sending PCBs/parts.
- Ohmspace put up t-shirts and stickers of the PCB in their shop and will donate the proceeds to the hackerspace
Actions Needed: final assembly on remaining lanterns, decide on alternative (non glass) enclosures, source mason jars/plastic jars, kit and PCB assembly on incoming lantern parts
3. Long range WiFi/VoIP - put together communications setup to give communications to people in quake/tsunami area with no internet access
- Acquired 8 WiFi routers
- Acquired 6 WiFi dongles
- Acquired 6 high gain antennas
- Flashed all routers w/DD-WRT
- Set up repeated nodes
- Tested high gain antennas on WiFi routers
- Rick handling Asterisk server setup and VoIP client setup
Actions Needed: Project on hold temporarily. Will resume once more basic needs taken care of.
4. Car Battery Phone Charger: Take standard car batteries in quake stricken areas and turn them into mobile phone charging stations w/ USB power ports
- MRE has picked up parts for a prototype
- Will put together detailed tutorial on how to build so others can build them too
Actions Needed: MRE is designing prototype, analyze ease/difficulty to build, need to see if this will be useful in area, possibly design up schematic, possibly design up PCB. Need feedback on this one.
5. Tohoku Smiles - Activity/Coloring books and art supplies for kids - Kids are going through a lot of stress right now and they need things to occupy their time and help them recover from the sudden dislocation in their lives
- Lauren is heading this up and is in charge of sourcing supplies and books
- Polling other groups to contribute time/effort/money as well
Actions Needed: Lauren will give more details
6. Refugee Center in Kamogawa - Chris Harrington is setting up a refugee center in an abandoned elementary school in Kamogawa for people in quake/tsunami area that will be long-term homeless
- Prepare material and supply donations
- Prepare IT equipment donations
- Organize volunteers
- Prep truck for hauling everything out there
- Prep camping gear cuz we gonna have a camp and BBQ in beautiful Kamogawa (nuclear fallout permitting)
Actions Needed: Chris H to update on progress of refugee center and let us know what is needed.
Comment: It'd be nice if Tokyo Hackerspace can adopt the refugee center and make regular trips to help out and bring donations.
Thank you all for everything!