Student Works

[Tech]tonic Toolkit

Tomas Garcia

MDes 2023

An earthquake communication kit that teaches children how to stay connected when natural disasters take telecommunications networks online.


Strategically deployed Long Range (LoRa) radio networks provide the opportunity to establish an affordable, resilient, and scalable communication network to connect our society’s most vulnerable populations in the aftermath of a major earthquake. By introducing these tools through primary school curriculums and facilities, these municipal institutions can provide a lifeline to an extensive socioeconomic spectrum. By addressing blind spots in civil infrastructure, this project intends to illustrate how thoughtful deployments of simple technology can enable communities to support each other.


The [Tech]tonic toolkit is a user-assembled kit consisting of 10 elements that combine to create a portable mesh-network communicator. The kit contents include:

  1. Aluminum faceplate
  2. Aluminum backplate + clip
  3. Printed bumper
  4. LoRa board
  5. Paper display
  6. Battery
  7. BLE antenna
  8. LoRa antenna
  9. Input buttons
  10. Assembly hardware

The toolkit is preconfigured with the community-driven and open-source Meshtastic software platform. Students assemble the components following the 20 steps illustrated in the user manual. In alignment with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in earth sciences, this kit has been designed for 4th grade students in seismically active regions. Once constructed, the class will learn how the assembled messenger connects to the school system and basic understanding of radio technology.

The primary function of the device is to receive incoming emergency notifications from the school district emergency notification system, supplementing current SMS and email options to ensure delivery in the absence of conventional telecommunications. Emergency notifications will be posted to an encrypted private channel, accessible only to invited participants. Upon activation, channel participants can post messages through their mesh units. A selection of preset messages can be sent directly from the device using the three-button interface. Users can also connect to the device over Bluetooth using an app interface that transmits messages to the [Tech]tonic messenger to the mesh channel.

Final Design

By designing a platform that centers on vulnerable populations, [Tech]tonic toolkit provide a utility that functions as a service across the entire community. Just as a mesh network gains stability and resilience with more connected nodes, community-driven disaster preparation gains strength through the empowerment and participation of all members of the community.

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