Until closing Mixxer due to the pandemic, I spent every day with people that are problem solvers; people that can design solutions to difficult problems and love the challenge. My email feed of the past week has included articles about things makers all over the world are doing to make personal protective equipment and parts for ventilators. My first reaction is to get to work making these things that will save lives, but then…

Let’s think this through before jumping into action. I can easily download a file to 3d print a face mask, or a pattern and directions on how to make another type of facemask, but will that actually be adequate protection for the person wearing it? What if I unknowingly have the virus and transmit that to everyone I give one of these masks to? People trying to do good could exacerbate the problem we are trying to solve. Not to mention the fact that the amount we will be able to produce will be equivalent to a drop of water into a pond.

This is a time of great uncertainty. Many of us want to fight this threat and DO SOMETHING! Right now, the best thing that we can do feels like doing nothing, but it’s really the best thing that most of us can do – Stay home. Stay away from other people. Wash your hands, then wash them again in a little while. If you do have to go out in public, maintain your distance from other people and pay close attention to what you are touching with your hands and keep from touching your face. Use hand sanitizer. It’s really that simple. If you don’t have the virus you greatly reduce the chances that you’ll get it if you do these things. If you do have the virus, then you greatly lessen the chances you’ll give it to someone else.

 I didn’t think I would be writing this message today, but I’m hoping to stave off a series of emails, social media posts, and phone calls from people suggesting that Mixxer become a manufacturing center for personal protective equipment. Don’t get me wrong; I will gladly, and without hesitation, activate the resources of Mixxer and the talented makers of the Mixxer community to fight against this threat to our communities in a way that is safe. If you are a healthcare professional, or if you know a healthcare manager, have them contact me; I’ll jump at the opportunity to lend a hand where possible. We can work together to make a plan that feels good while actually making people safer. My email: alan@wsmixxer.org

Right now, we need to keep from spreading the virus. Once we move past this phase there will be many opportunities for us to help each other to get through an entire new set of problems. Some people may need a new career, and Mixxer could be a useful place for someone trying to start a new business from scratch in an economic recession. Mixxer may become a more valuable education resource for our students that will go on to engineer, maintain, or deploy the automation machines that some companies will activate to build in resilience to another pandemic. One of our members is very likely to invent something that will lessen the impact or be helpful should there ever be another pandemic. But for now, we prefer to exercise caution and care and let the experts take the lead.

In an uncertain time, the things I am certain of are that we will get through this by working together, and that affordable access to tools and technology will be more important than ever once this has passed. Even though it may feel like doing nothing, please stay home, for now, and when this is behind us, let’s all work together to repair the damage to our economy and lift each other up. That will be the time to do something amazing.