What are we doing to 'fix' COVID-19 problems?

We are a global organization of problem solvers - FIRST students, mentors, alumni, volunteers, and sponsors! What problems do you see generated (locally or globally; big or small) by the current global pandemic? How can we fix them? How are you already fixing them? What impediments are holding you back?


Problem: Not enough ventilators for ICU units.
Potential Solution: Donate the use of 3D-printers owned by teams, team members, alumni, sponsors, etc to places qualified to print ventilator parts.
Potential impediments: How do we determine who is qualified? How do we handle the logistics of “donating the use of 3D printers”? How do we do this remotely, so that we don’t contaminate team members/mentors/others? How do we navigate the complex legality of providing equipment to people that produce medical parts?

Problem: Panic-buying at local stores causing shortages

Potential solutions: (1) Help local stores improve their inventory management through data tools. (2) If stock is available, but store is understaffed, how about some robotic help to monitor or restock supplies?

Potential impediments: What is the technological feasibility of either solution? Would better inventory management actually solve the problem? Would panic shoppers break the robots? How do we work through the development process remotely?

How could FIRST help us solve the problems the world is currently facing, together (apart!)?

Edit: Updated 1st example to clarify that FRC teams should not be producing medical devices that peoples lives depend on. Note - these examples are intended to encourage you to share more immediate problems that you see in your community that are secondarily related to COVID.


As for the latter problem, that’s actually something teams could try and work on, but I’d caution against suggesting that an organization made up primarily of high school students attempt to manufacture sensitive equipment that is quite literally life-or-death.


People are not staying home

By staying home


Thanks for being passionate about helping! It turns out, however, that more often than not its probably best we just obey WHO guidelines and practice social distancing. I hope you don’t feel too discouraged (CD can really do that sometimes–have some heart people), and I hope you stay healthy and safe!


Problem: Not enough people are staying inside

Why: They don’t see enough other people staying inside or don’t understand how to effectively Distance using science-based methods

Solution: Science-based outreach & education, conducted from a safe distance?


Problem: Engineers with free time see a problem and want to help, despite not having the expertise needed.

Solution: Assign all engineers with free time to develop a cryogenic sleep chamber for themselves for the next couple of months.
Easier Solution: sleeping pills, baseball bats, hammers…


These threads are asking good questions

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I’m with you there - I’m looking to encourage people to identify problems in their immediate communities that they can help with. I probably should have picked better examples…

But also:

While a student shouldn’t be producing ventilator parts, maybe a qualified manufacturer that sponsors a FIRST team can?
I’m not just looking for FRC team involvement; I’m hoping FIRST can help organize/enable the HUGE number of alumni, volunteers, and sponsors that may be in better positions to help - maybe a “special challenge” similar to the Chairmen’s Award that has a focus on COVID fallout and is open to “alumni teams”?


How can we link up the problems that people see, but can’t fix with the people that can fix the problems? What better tool than a network of global problem solvers with a heavy STEM focus?

How about people that see a problem, and have the skills to fix it, but not the time/money/other resources? Could the existent network of FIRST sponsors help?

Not to mention - sharing challenges that your community is facing and how they are resolving/have resolved the challenges could help other communities not reinvent the wheel.

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@heatblast016 Fair point - I’ve updated my original post somewhat; I may remove the ventilator example altogether.

You start with realizing that there is a problem, and that you can’t fix it for whatever reason.

Sorry, but 90% of the threads like this cover the FIRST part, no problem, but the second part is completely missed. So the people just go “let’s solve this problem, come on, let’s go!” not “There’s a problem, who CAN solve it?”

The second part of the response is that I’m not sure FIRST is as networked as you think. There’s what I’d call local clusters of people with good connections to each other, and then there’s a bunch of folks that are in several of those clusters at once. For many teams, sponsors are essentially not in the network of teams. Almost literally, you’d be best off putting out a tweet and @-ing all the companies you can think of to activate that sort of network, not going by the FIRST word-of-mouth grapevine.

Third, for most folks that are in a position to actually do something about this, I’m 90% sure that the government (or hospitals or similar places) have already broken down their doors to get them to do something about it.

Basically, what I’m saying is that right now, the people that CAN do something are already being hammered on by everybody else to do something. So the network we do have (such as it is) would just be doing what everybody else is doing. So maybe we need to focus on the issue of needing stuff to do–I’m sure just about everybody is going stir crazy due to the safer at home and other similar orders.

Edit: What I, personally, am doing right now is 1) realizing that I’m not in a very good position to solve anything with this whole outbreak other than by social distancing, 2) keeping aware of the current public policy in my area is, 3) continuing to work (last we checked, my workplace is in the “essential” category), unless I’m not feeling well (in which case I’ll be home quicker than you can say “work from home”) or we’re informed that we aren’t essential, and 4) just trying to keep my head on my shoulders and not go too stir crazy.



You have several excellent points here - there are so many problems that we can’t fix right now - understanding why we can’t fix them (impediments) is the first step towards finding who can and how.

You’re absolutely right that FIRST isn’t tightly networked. Part of why I came here is that it was the best place I could think of to reach a wider audience of FIRST teams. I spoke with my regional director, a few alumni and a judge, but other than Chief Delphi and sleuthing on LinkedIn, we didn’t have a lot of ideas about how to coalesce this ‘vision’.

It is my hope that FIRST can do something like issuing a new challenge to teams to identify a concrete way to improve their community. Adding measures/rules that enforce social distancing (Zoom sponsorship?) could be part of the ‘challenge’. It wouldn’t be that unlike the Chairmen’s Award, just with a few additional rules and guidelines. Both FIRST and individual teams could reach out to the alumni and sponsors to encourage involvement as relevant.

As far as solving the problems, once identified - creating a virtual place where the problems could be presented/judged could allow teams to help each other overcome impediments and share solutions.

That’s at least half what inspired me to post this. Having a ‘mission’ may help the mannnny people stuck at home focus on something that will also benefit their friends and neighbors. Done right, this will also provide educational value for the students and help build useful skillsets like “teleworking on a team” (a challenge my current workplace faces).

I believe there’s a FIRST reddit and a FIRST Discord or several. (I’m not on the reddit, or any of the official Discords, personally. I do know they exist.) So mentioning this general idea over there would be a good idea.

Also, the one other thing: Right now, there’s multiple different problem statements. I think it’d be important to isolate them and try to tackle one-by-one if such a challenge was issued.

You’ve got a medical supply shortage, a “bare shelves” problem at local stores, a bunch of adults “stuck at home”, and a bigger bunch of kids also “stuck at home” with the adults. And you need to keep the folks “stuck at home” semi-sane.

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discord.gg/frc is the unofficial frc discord server that is pretty large, the design and cad text channel could probably help with designing solutions as everyone is bored.

Though I would be cautious about helping, as we are highschoolers (and some middleschoolers) who are stuck at home and not professional engineers or medical professionals, its diffuicult to ensure that quality control is consisent, and that the medical equipment has not been contaminated during any part of the process.

I have heard that it will last for more than three months. I don’t think that Hubei, China is now safe just because they have announced that they have 0 cases for the last couple of days. There has been a shortage for PPE, and even the medical staff are getting sick some even died.

Honestly, the best anyone can do is staying in doors. Literally, staying in doors. Not only do you minimise the chances of you getting the Coronavirus, but you also take one less space in the hospital if you were to go out and contract the virus. Hospitals everywhere are running out of room for additional patients, so staying in doors will benefit not just you, but to those in need.

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I do want to mention some work Israeli teams are doing to help combat the virus.

We were contacted by Rambam Hospital through the Technion University to build them a robot that could deliver meals and medicine to patients in quarantine without needing for nurses to put themselves in danger. The robot is still in development, but the results are looking promising. The robot is designed with common FRC parts and construction techniques, so it can be built by many teams around the country and world. The goal is that once the first robot is shown to work, we will release the designs to all FRC teams so every hospital can get their own delivery robot. This should be a good way to help reduce the chance of medical professionals getting infected and a roundabout way to lower the high demand for PPE.

There is also a group of teams including 1577 Steampunk, 1690 Orbit, 2231 OnyxTronix, and others who are working with Microsoft Israel, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Magen David Adom (Israel’s national emergency medical service), and the Israeli Air Force to develop a cheap and easy to produce respirator. I’m not involved with the project, but as I understand it they are designing it with parts many FRC teams will have on hand (e.g. window/throttle motors) and routed sheet parts that can be quickly manufactured. You can read a Google Translated article about the project here.


While everybody has been at home, I have been busy at work making components for testing equipment and real face masks. Coming soon: Injection molded face masks made in a real medical cleanroom. will produce 2 headbands every 10ish seconds, which means we can produce these masks a lot faster than people with their desktop printers, and maintain a higher quality standard.

Edit: I did some math, and I estimate that we will produce roughly 16,000 face masks a day.


This is so true, but I don’t know why we’re limiting ourselves to the current pandemic. My team (of incredibly dedicated and smart high schoolers, but still teenagers nonetheless) has decided to stop robotics altogether and concentrate on solving world hunger and curing cancer (for starters).