Category Archives: Gender

DIY Menstrual Cups & Hack4Fem

Background on Menstrual Cups

I’ve been throwing around the idea of customized or instrumented menstrual cups for a while.

Menstrual cups, typically made of medical-grade silicone, are cups that catch the blood flowing out of the cervix and typically only need to be emptied twice a day. They are flexible so you fold them and they open on insertion. They exist in collapsible, ball-valve, and other forms.

For why I love them (well, I actually switched to tampons first):

so recently I started regularly using tampons, they are amazinnnnggg

seriously
every month my sleep schedule would get massively disrupted, because I slept uneasily, sometimes even in an upright sitting position, ready to jump awake when blood inevitably started to go everywhere, and also I’d have to wash my sheets and multiple sets of underwear / pants each month, often by hand
or i’d store pads in my bookbag and a month later when I needed them again, they’d be full of resistors and other bookbag filth, since the pad packaging isn’t really watertight

Some of my friends like the concept of menstrual cups, but have various problems with removal and leakage. I speculate that custom cups could help, although more analysis is needed to determine the cause and the variation. Hence this project.

I also really like the idea of an citizen science project measuring variation in periods. Other people claim a Diva cup is supposed to hold half your period’s worth of blood — I definitely bleed at least four cup-fulls during my period, so I wonder if my bleeding is heavy. If lots of people contributed data, we could see whether it varied by ethnicity, age, body weight, etc. It would be a ton of fun!

I was beaten to the punch on instrumented cups, but I think there is still room for improvement (or at least an open-hardware version).

This past Saturday I ran a hackathon for feminism (website here).

2015-11-14

It went really well, and I’ll blog about it in another post shortly — this one’s focused on menstrual cups 🙂

hackathon

pre-hackathon

Before the hackathon, John and I made menstrual cup molds and cast menstrual cups. We modeled it in Solidworks, then intersected it with a rectangular prism and split the prism in half. This created a two-part mold with a cavity in-between the size and shape of the menstrual cup. The Solidworks 2015 files are available here and are CC-BY-SA (c) John Aleman.

model

We then printed these out on a Stratasys printer, melted the wax support material off in the toaster oven, cleaned off with isoproprly alcohol, and had our molds.

2015-11-12

I first tested it at home with John’s help. We used Smooth-On’s SORTA-Clear Translucent Silicone Rubber, shore 37, since it cures in 4 hours instead of 24 hours. This is food safe and I think body-safe — I would call Reynold’s Advanced Materials to double-check before actually using one of these cups.

Turns out this material was really difficult to work with… it was the consistency of viscous snot.  No pictures pre-hackathon since the silicone is messy. I sure had a difficult time separating the molds. And it turned out we hadn’t even filled the molds for two of them!

incomplete-molds

Eventually some careful prying by my friend Nadya, we opened the final mold to find a menstrual cup inside!

mcup-mold

mcup

It had a lot of bubbles — would have benefited from 2-3 minutes in a vacuum. Unfortunate, since there doesn’t seem to be a cheap hobbyist vacuum solution. It was also slightly tacky, so either something in the 3d print is inhibiting cure or we didn’t mix well enough.

hackathon hands-on workshop

hackathon-molds

At the hackathon, we used syringes to eject into the molds until it came out the sides, and also just poured it into the bottom half of the mold and squeezed the top half on top to guarantee the mold was filled. We also all got pretty excited about the idea of glittery menstrual cups! 🙂 Sadly I didn’t have glitter on hand.

twocups

 

At the end of the hackathon we managed to demold one. This one  also had a giant bubble and many little bubbles, and was also tacky after the full four hours of cure time. We mixed this one much better, so I’m starting to think something is inhibiting cure, or perhaps the place we left them was too chilly.

next up

I definitely need a better mold design, and I need to figure out why the silicone is not curing properly. I also need to figure out a way around the bubble issue.

I also wonder how to analyze and determine why menstrual cups are failing (when they are hard to retrieve or leak). I also wonder, if fit is part of the problem, how you could easily take a measurement(s) to customize menstrual cups to each person.

And of course, I want to build the open science project! 🙂 Maybe instead of having each person build their own cup, I could at least start a form going and collect data…

feminist / engineering shopfront brainstorming

Current plan: Find a venue for a pop-up shop, 2 to 5pm on Sundays, somewhere near Central Square or other t-stop (or somewhere a lot of people walk past). Danger!awesome community space, perhaps.

Have tshirts, jewelry, greeting cards, posters, framed art for sale. Work on projects while waiting for people to buy things or not.

Archived Thoughts

I want to open a little storefront in danger!awesome’s new community space, or at the least install a vending machine there. Who should I talk to that might take me seriously?

I would stock
  • last-minute hard-to-find locally things, such as
  • standard engineering things
    • arduinos & mcus
    • composites (fiberglass, kevlar, carbon fiber, gallons of epoxy) / molding supplies (smooth-on)
    • servos & hobbyking motors
    • lipos & lipo chargers
    • tiny taps and drill bits (always break)
    • nylon things (inert)
    • ferric chloride, acetone, MEK/P
    • dremel bits
    • sandpaper
    • right-angle drills (probably for renting)
  • personal protective equipment that fits for both men and women
    • cheap small/medium leather gloves
    • cheap small/medium tyvek suits
    • a stock of respirators so people can try them on & see how it handles with their hair & learn how to put them on properly
    • small/medium closed-toe boots / steel boots
    • small/medium insulative coveralls
    • safety glass buffing station
  • fashion and craft things
    • fondant, icing, glitter, matte nail polish, etc.
  • Products from local engineers and makers, such as Brian Chan’s lasercut folding ukulele
I am not sure how I’d keep it open, because I especially want people to have access during times when normal stores are not open, but those are the crappiest times from the employee perspective (see: night shift health hazards), and I’m pretty busy. Perhaps some sort of coop-honor-system style thing could work, where you pay a deposit and then have 24hr access & you keep track of what materials you “bought”/checked-out and can pay on-site with a self-checkout.
and anything else people want (I’d have a “what do you want to see here” suggestion box online and offline :] ), and keep inventory meticulously online, so people KNOW what’s in stock.

More ideas

  • customization
    • dremel your name into your bike (anti-theft)
    • anodize or hydrographically print on your wrench set, helmet, etc. so that it’s very obvious that it’s yours and people know to return it if they borrow it
  • specialized tools
    • watch a robot arm use machine vision to sort your drill bits for you
    • place a bolt that you need to match on the countertop and we will (using machine vision?) identify size and thread count for you & give you the mcmaster number
    • smooth-on supplies
      • mini-museum of casting things
  • consultancies
    • trying to learn how to scale and source things in China? Visiting China and want to talk to manufacturers? Get cheap and questionable advice (possibly while doing your nails :P)
    • where to source things and how to source them cheaply
  • shop safety education (with lots of disclaimers that we are not doctors)
    • have posters of what happens when you don’t treat epoxy respectfully
    • get nitty gritty street knowledge on what you actually need to do to be safe and what bad outcomes are like and how to treat them — what are the trade-offs you are making with your safety when you don’t wear respirators, long clothes, etc. without judging you if for whatever reason you don’t
    • teach people how to use respirators and pick the right cartridges so that the respirator is easy to use and doesn’t get in the way of glasses and safety glasses and long hair
  • hubmotors & misc. segging things from china
    • segstick buddy riding competitions
  • food
    • too annoying to get license perhaps… but
    • could sell food molds: nyancat pancake molds, chocolate molds, etc. for birthday gifts
    • cake decorating / cutting robots
  • robot / geeky earrings and tshirts
  • feminist apparel, greeting cards, jewelry, tshirts, dresses, scarves, hats, shoes
  • menstrual cup advice and models

feminism + engineering projects brainstorming

some off-the-walls brainstorming!
ideas list:
  • covering the ground around clinics in mobile robots (so there’s nowhere to step) that together display cute cat videos (to de-stress patients and employees) [3]
  • cute pop up robots, like in big hero six [2], that act as a wall of clinic escorts (automation is the future, after all) and project calming music / nature sounds
    • or project the stories of those who have had abortions and want to share their story, in a non-threatening and clearly automated way, so that if anti-abortion folks want to threaten anyway, they’re left threatening a cute robot. Maybe stick a gopro on them to tape the protestors violently taking down the robots, which it seems like they might be inclined to do so
    • punching bag for the really angry folks who could benefit to work off some steam
    • hand out survey cards to clinic bullies to collect their complaints and offer them cake and tea (remind them to be civil)
    • distract clinic bullies (or at least their kids) with cute cat videos projected onto the side of the clinic building
    • distribute pro-choice adorable plushies and toys to the kids there
  • water or chalk spray graffiti attachment to a bike for people commuting to promote civic action while on their way to work [4] [5]
  • light attachment for bike [6] [7]
  • birth control coffee kcup, many people easily remember to drink coffee every day at a regular time 🙂 might increase compliance
  • creating fashionable dresses out of feminine hygiene products with pro-choice slogans artfully worked into them [10]
  • selling pro-choice pasta [8]
  • a facebook plugin for people to easily show their support for choice / abortion, like the lgbt rainbow plugin [9]
  • hold a nail art party / saloon, or a fashion walk, or a hackathon, or a conference. fun and educational and empowering events, all day every day, next to the clinic(s). To make the contrast between hate-filled speech and things that make everyone laugh and have fun and let them just get on with their lives, even more clear
  • have a statue competition — build pedestals to stand on and get in makeup artists and so patients and employees are greeted with an interesting gallery of living art, like the performance artists who paint themselves like statues and hold really still, instead of hate and harrassment
  • hold feminist / women’s rights play/theater shows and documentary screenings next to the clinic
  • make it really annoying to be there.
    • Sell the protestors every day things, it must get really boring to keep talking about the same thing every day and they are the perfect captive audience.
    • Have a guy very persistently offer the male clinic bullies free makeup and perfume and lotion samples and manicures.
    • Have really annoying and loud teenager cellphone conversations in the middle of and completely ignoring the clinic bullies
    • Hold kids’ water balloon fights there in the summer! Maybe high school / university kids who know how to leave a clear path for patients and employees.
    • Set up mini water-dropping drones which hover over clinic bullies and give them their own personal rain cloud (or rainbow/disco spotlight + rick roll music).
  • Just make it extra super boring to be there. Like have a Speech / Toastmaster or high school debate competition outside near the clinic, or read the house codes / political bills non-stop for a while

[1] http://qz.com/435921/the-worlds-first-abortion-drone-will-deliver-pills-to-poland-this-weekend/

https://qzprod.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/abortion-drone-crop.jpeg?w=1434

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Hero_6_%28film%29#/media/File:Big_Hero_6_%28film%29_poster.jpg

A big white round robot.

[3] http://www.wired.com/2014/05/disney-invents-swarming-robots-that-create-animations/

http://www.wired.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/disney-pixelbots-07.jpg

http://www.wired.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/disney-pixelbots-07.jpg

[4] http://media.treehugger.com/assets/images/2011/12/nicholas-hanna5.jpghttp://media.treehugger.com/assets/images/2011/12/nicholas-hanna5.jpg

[5] http://archive.wired.com/politics/onlinerights/news/2007/04/kinberg_0410

[5]

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graffiti_Research_Lab

http://hackedgadgets.com/wp-content/Graffiti_Research_Lab_laser_Tag_4.jpg

[7] https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/embrooke/blaze-bike-light

http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/dam/assets/130912121102-blaze-bike-light-horizontal-gallery.jpg

[8]  http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-K87vdmx-qwc/VSnUfG1XaGI/AAAAAAAAE20/AIezRXtjXec/s1600/a4.jpg

http://pastamachines.com/ravmolds/dies/shapes/

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-K87vdmx-qwc/VSnUfG1XaGI/AAAAAAAAE20/AIezRXtjXec/s1600/a4.jpg

[9]

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/06/were-all-those-rainbow-profile-photos-another-facebook-experiment/397088/

[10] http://thestir.cafemom.com/healthy_living/114448/5_Alternative_Uses_for_Tampons

http://cdn-ugc.cafemom.com/gen/constrain/500/500/80/2010/12/30/08/ds/fy/po5ad5eaok1ehm8.jpg

nail saloon parties: laseretched stamping plates, water marbling / hydrographic printing, toner transfer, and magnetic nail polish

nail saloon

I’ve been holding nail saloon parties at my place, the idea being it would be a place where people should feel welcome to ask questions about things they might feel awkward about normally, and also a chance for me to learn about other people’s experiences that I don’t know much of anything about.

Although it turned out to be mostly preaching to the choir, I’ve improved friendships through it, learned about other people’s lives, and also experimented with nail art with folks!

Here’s a few “pieces”. I drew this with the applicators that came on the bottle (and a toothpick, I think)

laser-etched stamping plates

I tried to make stamping plates (lasercut) — here’s how the professional ones look: https://youtu.be/HxIFgvfPC1c?t=1m29s — however, I think, because I was in a hurry, the etch depth was not deep enough

(and also, we were using test tube stoppers instead of soft round stamps that conform to your nail more).

newspaper toner transfer

One person successfully did newspaper transfer, but that was perhaps one successful one try out of ten…

Here’s the instructions, using rubbing alcohol.

And if you’re not having luck, just fake it with sharpie 🙂

ombre

aka, a color gradient. this is a simple technique, just take a cosmetic sponge, put two or three colors next to each other, and then dab away — tada, you have a gradient!

the middle finger is “ombre” here

magnetic nail polish

it works! turns out you need to get the magnet patterns.

the thumb and fourth finger have gold magnetic nail polish applied

Update 8/16/15: For those wondering about MRI compatibility — it so happens I had an MRI done recently with some magnetic nail polish still on my nails. It was totally fine (not even a slight pull), and they also have a nifty device that checks if you have metal things on you before you enter the MRI room.

stickers

these sadly only lasted maybe a few days, even with a topcoat applied on top of the stickers

tools

I hunted around for a local source of things like dotting tools (for making dots) and eventually found them right at Target!

the sticker “masks” above did not work too great, but the dotting tool was handy 🙂

testimonial

“I guess I never noticed how often I take off my socks in the presence of other people until now. An eye-opening find on it’s own! I think I shall paint them from now on. It’s like the personalization of a tattoo without the peril.” — K. S.

water marbling

This is just dropping different colors into a cup of water and dipping your nails in it. I did this successfully (you want solid colors usually, and some nail polishes do not work (just dissolve into the water)). Here’s a friend’s:

Inline image 1

Here’s the coolest water marbling of nails I’ve seen

Here’s the fun technical equivalent at SIGGRAPH

conclusion

Overall, quite a bit of fun 🙂

hack4fem: hack for feminism (conference & hackathon) logo

hack4femlogo hack4femlogoI made a logo for a new project I am starting up. It’s a mashup of a bunch of openclipart files, It combines the feminist logo (fist inside Venus sign) with STEM (wrench for mechanical engineering / hands-on, lightning for electrical engineering, then on the nails, a graph for mathematics, beaker for science, and “</>” for coding). The logo expresses my desire to combine my STEM skills with my feminist / activist passions. I refuse to choose between activism and advancing my technical prowess.

hack4femlogoHere is the SVG sourcehack4femlogo, which I release back into the public domain.

If you’re interested in helping organize the first hack4fem conference, email me! 🙂 It’s set for Nov. 7th & 8th (Sat. and Sun.), 2015, in Boston, MA.