Climate and Culturally Situated Sensing

Categories:  Culturally Situated Community Sensing, Michael O’Keefe

During the spring semester, I have been working in Doyle Middle School with Mr. Dunleavy’s 7th grade science class; a different teacher and class than I worked with during the fall semester. My goal for this semester is to give the students an introduction to climate science, which I can use to introduce the Culturally Situated Sensing project with the Sensorcache.

First, we talked about the difference between weather and climate. I used a worksheet from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Service Education group to demonstrate different climates, then had the students find examples of different climate zones in the United States.

The next activity correlated this knowledge of climate zones with the temperature and precipitation levels for various states, and had the students think about their ideal climate. They then graphed the climate data they recorded using a bar graph. Students seemed to respond well to this activity.

Both of these activities were conducted on days during which mandatory English Language Arts testing was being conducted by the school, shortening some class periods by 15-20 minutes and completely cutting out others.  Delay has been a theme so far in my classroom experience, as it took me almost a month to get into the classroom during the second semester, due to delays at the school district level.

My next goal for the classroom is to begin introducing the topic of climate change, and discussing human impacts on climate. I hope to have the students complete an assessment of the climate impact each individual has, showing them what everyday activities produce in greenhouse gas emissions/waste products, and what they take in land area to generate. Making the students more aware of the ecological cost of their actions will demonstrate the difference each person can make, and be a good lead in for discussing the role sensing has in understanding and fighting climate change.

Vote for 3Helix to innovate the future!

Categories:  Andrew Ellis, Colin Garvey, Culturally Situated Community Sensing, Libby Rodriguez, Michael Lachney, News and Events

GK-12 3Helix fellows Michael Lachney, Colin Garvey, Libby Rodriguez, Andrew Ellis and Michael O’Keefe have submitted the 3Helix Sensor Project idea in the Innovate the Future Challenge. This campaign offers a global forum for participants to share their ideas for ways to enable a more secure future for our planet. Their GK-12 sensor caching project is an interactive Treasure Hunting game in which players use their GPS enabled Smart Phones to find hidden Sensor Cashes. This idea is focused on empowering people with a low cost and easy to use technology to monitor pollutants in their communities, while capitalizing on Digital Exhaust as a means to cut cost on computing power and data transfer. The final product is a fun and interactive scavenger hunt that contributes to the body of Science, while providing users with an opportunity to learn about their environment. Visit the Innovate the Future site to read the full project description and to VOTE.


Culturally Situated Community Sensing Workshops

Categories:  Culturally Situated Community Sensing

by Kirk Jalbert

Alternatively known as the RPI Community Sensor (see the website here), this project sprang from a collaboration between myself, GK-12 fellows Louis Gutierrez in the Computer Science Department, and Christopher Shing in the Electrical, Computer & Systems Engineering in Fall 2010. The three of us were brought together as researchers on the NSF funded GK-12 Triple Helix project under PI Ron Eglash.

We began with the premise that environmental monitoring and educational platforms based on monitoring could find wider distribution through open source technologies and participatory projects with target communities. In Spring of 2011 we collaborated with a team of 12 senior capstone design students to develop the sensor and in Summer of 2011 I ran a series of workshops on the Navajo Nation and at Northern Arizona University in collaboration with educators working in climate change and air quality monitoring.

Additionally, using environmental sensors often require the use of maps in order to contextualize sensor data. Mapping can also be a gateway to thinking about how different kinds of factors influence a community. Useful maps not only include things like water or air quality statistics, but also locations of cultural and social value such as historical sites, nearby schools, and protected land. When people take on the task of constructing a “community resource maps” with information important to their community, this is referred to as Participatory Mapping – a foundational component of the RPI sensor project. Participatory-built maps have a number of advantages over generic maps. Not only are they made to answer certain questions about a community, but they also contain information that might otherwise not be included on generic maps. The combination of participatory sensing and the construction of community resource maps forms a practice I refer to as Culturally Situated Sensing.

You can read more about some of the theoretical concepts that informed the Culturally Situated Community Sensing in my 2011 paper “CULTURALLY SITUATED SENSING: Peer Innovation and Citizen Sensing in Native American Communities” commissioned by the Intel Corporations’ Experience Insight Lab.

View Project Updates »

Building the RPI Community Sensor

Categories:  Chris Shing, Culturally Situated Community Sensing, Louis Gutierrez

by Kirk Jalbert

In the Fall of 2010 I began a collaborative project with two fellow graduate students at RPI to design an open-source modular environmental sensing platform. This would be used in educational workshops, but also to facilitate conversations about how environmental monitoring could be conducted at low-cost and without a base requirement of having advanced technical skills. These ideas were built on a large field of research in ‘participatory sensing’ also called ‘citizen sensing’.

In the Spring of 2011 we were given an opportunity to work with the RPI Multidisciplinary Lab (MDL) which allowed us to contract a capstone design team of 12 engineering students to develop the sensor platform. Typically the MDL is contracted to provide solutions for industry partners like GE, Boeing, and IBM, and has facilities encompassing over 6,000sq.ft. of equipment for prototyping, fabricating, and workspace. Working with the team was a windfall for the project, although not without complications.

After much effort negotiating open copyright with the MDL administration, the MDL engineering team built their platform on an Arduino architecture, which allowed us to switch core processing components to off the shelf hardware as needed. In the end we came up with a hybrid solution of custom-MDL hardware and off-the-market hardware to bring into the field. The end device was capable of sensing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO), temperature, relative humidity, and soil moisture.

The MDL team’s final deliverable poster can be seen in the images above. The final presentation photos were taken by Mark Anderson of the MDL lab.