Handwashing Karaoke Machine

Back in late February 2020, news about COVID-19 was steadily increasing. Much of the public health messaging at the time focused on hygiene practices and social distancing. Public figures in medical and media professions proliferated the idea that one could time one’s handwashing by singing Happy Birthday twice to know when 20-seconds had passed.

This recommendation prompted various memes in which different selections of songs were suggested instead of Happy Birthday. One of my personal favorites was from Twitter user @djkevincole, who spread the word to all the Goths that 20 seconds is about 4 “hey now nows,” in reference to the song “This Corrosion” by Sisters of Mercy.

During this early stage of the pandemic, before the reality of the severity and virulence of COVID-19 set in, we conceptualized Handwashing Karaoke as a fun way to remind people to wash their hands for twenty seconds. The project of caring for our local communities seemed more important than ever. We thought that popular karaoke songs, paired with the excellent acoustics of bathrooms, would be a way to bring a bit of joy to those anxious times. So we started work on the karaoke machine, intending to use a LilyPad Arduino MP3 player as the hardware for the project.

1970s style lettering spells out Handwashing Karaoke. The words are accompanied by icons of a microphone and soapy hands under a faucet.

On March 10, 2020 local media reported the first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in the DFW area. On March 12, the University of Texas at Dallas announced an extended Spring Break and transition to online course formats upon our return. Little did we know that it would be 17 months before we would all be in community together again in Richardson, TX. We regularly met online during this time but our attention turned to mask-making and other projects. This project seemed less urgent since we were all washing our hands in disparate places, literally across the globe.

A small karaoke machine, made of light colored wood.

In August 2021 we were able to resume work on this project in earnest. It has been ready for some time, but finding a place to install it has been a challenge. It was initially intended to be installed in one of the single-occupant bathrooms in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building (ATC). They are accessible, gender-free, and open to anyone. However, we were unable to secure permission to install it there, ironically due to hygiene concerns. After exploring (and deciding against) other options with sinks, we decided the most accessible place to install it is as part of the Critical Media Studies Showcase space in the first floor lobby of the ATC building. Although this is nowhere near a sink, our hope is that hearing the twenty second excerpts of songs helps to familiarize listeners so they can sing (out loud or in their hearts) on their own later while they are washing their hands.

So, now, nearly two years later, we are proud to present Handwashing Karaoke. We hope you enjoy.

The Handwashing Karaoke Machine plays twenty seconds of “Push It” by Salt n Pepa

Technical Details

Handwashing Karaoke is made with components from Sparkfun’s Qwiic Arduino line. A proximity sensor connects to the Qwiic pro micro and MP3 trigger, which plays a sound file over a small speaker.

The cabinet was fabricated using the Glowforge to cut out the cabinet from wood and acrylic. Decorative details were added with a laser printer and acrylic paint.

Project Credits

Kim Brillante Knight – Concept; Producer; Creative Director; Music curator.

Atanur Andic – Lead software and circuit design; Fabrication Lead; Music curator.

Yueh-Jung Lee – Software and circuit design; Fabrication.

Cameron Irby and Mohammed Mizanur Rashid – Music consultants; General support.

Charlotte Mason – Purchasing support.

Philip Martin and Rosalie McManis – Logistics and installation consultants.

Song Lists

For what is currently playing, visit the Handwashing Karaoke – Now Playing post.

The initial song list was curated from various “Top Karaoke” lists by Atanur Andic.

  • Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey
  • Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi
  • Wonderwall by Oasis
  • Mr. Brightside by The Killers
  • Price Tag by Jessie J
  • Dance Monkey by Tones and I
  • I Want It That Way by The Backstreet Boys
  • So What by P!nk
  • Rolling in the Deep by Adele
  • Don’t Stop me Now by Queen
  • Thrift Shop by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
  • Moves Like a Jagger by Maroon 5
  • Umbrella by Rihanna
  • Hotel California by The Eagles
  • Firework by Katy Perry
  • The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars
  • Where is the Love
  • Paradise by Coldplay
  • Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
  • La La La by Naughty Boy feat. Sam Smith

For Black History Month, Atanur Andic and Kim Knight curated this list of karaoke and party songs by Black artists:

  • Respect by Aretha Franklin
  • I Got You (I Feel Good) by James Brown
  • Superstition by Stevie Wonder
  • September by Earth, Wind, & Fire
  • Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr.
  • Halo by Beyonce
  • Umbrella by Rihanna
  • Blinding Lights by The Weeknd
  • The Best by Tina Turner
  • Let’s Go Crazy by Prince
  • No One by Alicia Keys
  • We are Family by Sister Sledge
  • Celebration by Kool & The Gang
  • Before I Let Go by Maze ft. Frankie Beverly
  • I’m So Excited by The Pointer Sisters
  • All Night Long (All Night) by Lionel Richie
  • Electric Boogie by Marcia Griffiths
  • Rhythm of the Night by Debarge
  • Push It by Salt-n-Pepa
  • I Wanna Dance with Somebody by Whitney Houston

In honor of Women’s History Month, Atanur Andic and Kim Knight curated a list of party and karaoke songs by women-identified artists who are popular in the United States:

  • It’s a Good Day (To Fight the System) by Shungudzo
  • Just A Girl by No Doubt
  • abcdefu by GAYLE
  • Meticulous Bird by Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
  • Cherry Bomb by The Runaways
  • I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
  • Born This Way by Lady Gaga
  • You Don’t Own Me by Lesley Gore
  • Q.U.E.E.N. by Janelle Monáe
  • Independent Women Part 1 by Destiny’s Child
  • I am America by Shea Diamond
  • Bad Reputation by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts 
  • Fight Like a Girl by Zolita
  • Sit Still, Look Pretty by Daya
  • Run the World by Beyonce
  • Confident by Demi Lovato
  • Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys
  • Nameless, Faceless by Courtney Barnett
  • Fighter by Christina Aguilera
  • So What by Pink

In honor of UTD’s iWeek celebration of our international student population, Atanur Andic and Mohammed Mizanur Rashid curated a list of songs in languages from Fashioning Circuits members’ countries of origin:

Songs in Bangla:

Songs in Hindi:

Songs in Urdu:

Songs in Turkish:

Songs in Spanish:

In honor of Dallas Pride in June, Atanur Andic curated a list of songs by LGBTQIA artists and/or popular at Pride events. Since the halls of the building are pretty empty in the summers, this list is featured June – September of 2022.

  1. ‘I Want to Break Free’ by Queen
  2. ‘Born This Way’ by Lady Gaga
  3. ‘Tomboy’ by Princess Nokia
  4. ‘Rebel Rebel’ by David Bowie
  5. ‘Montero (Call Me by Your Name)’ by Lil Nas X
  6. ‘Believe’ by Cher
  7. ‘Y.M.C.A.’ by Village People
  8. ‘I wanna be your girlfriend’ by Girl in Red
  9. ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA
  10. ‘Kiss’ by Prince
  11. ‘Sissy that Walk’ by RuPaul
  12. ‘Nails, Hair, Hips, Heel’ by Todrick Hall
  13. ‘I am still standing’ by Elton John
  14. ‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell
  15. ‘Lady Marmalade’ by Christina Augilera, Mya, Lil Kim, Pink
  16. ‘Sweater Weather’ by Neighbourhood
  17. ‘Love on Top’ by Beyonce
  18. ‘Work It’ by Missy Elliot
  19. ‘I’m Coming Out’ by Diana Ross
  20. ‘Vogue’ by Madonna 



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