Can FRC teams design and build ventilators?

Can FRC unleash its massive talent to design and build ventilators around the world? We probably can’t build enough but I bet we could build some.

But I for one, don’t know what a ventilator needs to do. I have seen them squeeze a hand tube like mechanism which looks simple to automate but companies are saying it will take months to mass produce machines. Why? Can we find out what is needed for a simple machine as well as more complex and see if we can make a difference?

Than you all for your patience.

I would like to try and respond to some of the issues raised by many of these responses.

  1. I am not suggesting that the massive effort going on by many wonderful companies should be disrespected or underestimated in any way. A team taking on the challenge of making a ventilator should not be seen as a threat to these wonderful efforts.
  2. Regarding the reason of the difficulty of the task and the danger of trying such a task. I can tell you that these same arguments were advanced when we proposed transistor technology to replace vacuum tubes in the military and aerospace. The same arguments were advanced when we introduced computers and yet both were done and no one would argue the fantastic results even though lives were at risk. This does not mean the risk isn’t there. It is. But no Frc developed ventilator ever has to be used. It it the creativity of these brilliant teams that I’m suggesting we enlist.
  3. What if just one idea works?
  4. There is a big gap between having a full featured ventilator and the hand operated tubes. Perhaps there is room for a few middle ground machines that may require human monitoring.
  5. I would encourage all the creative people by saying there are always a majority of people saying it can’t be done because it’s too complex so figure out a simple solution, it’s too expensive so make one that Sudan can afford, it’s too dangerous so be careful and be responsible by realizing your ventilator probably should never be used in a patient but it is certain that if you do nothing nothing will happen.

Can they? Probably. Should they? Absolutley not.

There are probably dozens of threads on this topic at this point.


Production lines for large corporations can take time to retool for a totally new purpose. Some are working on using existing hardware, but even that takes a lot of time.

Friends in FRC who work for companies like Ford, GM, Tesla etc are working very hard to do this.

Worth listening to this recent podcast from Planet Money to understand a bit of what it takes to crank up production of ventilators.

I would not want my FRC team to build something that someone else’s life directly depends on.



Elon Musk is buying them from China and shipping them. So…

He’s buying used CPAP machines and claiming they are ventilators, when CPAP machines actually aerosolize the virus and make it spread more easily throughout the hospital. CPAP machines are also much cheaper (around $750 used) and not in any particular surge of demand right now. He’s being a disingenuous hack again, just like he is with any crisis he can grab attention in.


Well that’s not a shocker. I had a lot more written about smart people thinking they can be epidemiologists and his tweets this past month, but went for something more pithy.

I was just trying to point out that, disingenuous or not, people with capabilities and means beyond a high school robotics team are not cranking out ventilators.

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Do I need to respond to this the same way I respond to other threads?


I recommend everyone read the post that @KevinRo made on Facebook a few days ago about the challenges and dangers of homebrew ventilators from his first-hand experience. This is not something that FRC teams should be attempting.


OP, this is the answer.

To help in your own research, take a look:
and here

That last one being the most concrete example of a home-buildable model. However, as the project itself makes abundantly clear, it is still quite far from being ready for “prime-time” as a 1-for-1 replacement for medical equipment.

For situations like these, it’s important to keep the Dunning-Kruger cognitive bias in mind.


Specifically, when one is not an expert in a field, their meta-cognition should immediately conclude that they are likely going to under-estimate the difficulty of any task, and should keep expectations in check appropriately.

Simultaneously, expect that the first serious research attempts will likely cause feelings that the task is impossible. This isn’t true either - it’s just that the realization of “a more nuanced solution is required” is slowly forming.


We need to start consolidating topics and clarifying what is fine to post here (and we are working on establishing this). New users are coming into CD to post and it’s more understandable that they are not reading past posts/threads. If you see these. Flag and let us know which other threads they are related to and help us with as much info as you can. We can act much quicker when we do not need to go on scavenger hunts or just flags with no comments or ones that ask to just close. Help us by communicating please.