Speck Monitor Empowers Citizen Scientists

The Speck air quality monitor was mentioned in a recent article by NPR's StateImpact series. The article focuses on citizen scientists and the impact their data can have on scientific research and activism. Part of the article covered the Citizen Sense project from the University of London. As part of the project, researchers gave Speck monitors to people living near natural gas development in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna county. The main interest of the project is not the air quality readings but what the residents do with the data.

The full article can be found here.

Website for the project can be found here.

Please consider The CREATE Lab as you think about Year-End or New-Year giving!

We would love to have your support to continue empowering a technology fluent generation in rural and urban areas, and creating tools such as the newly launched Breathe Cam, for everyday citizens and scientists.

Next year we look forward to presenting our first annual CONTEXT tech fluency conference, and to empowering communities with visual evidence of pollution through our eCam project.

To donate, please visit: http://give.cmucreatelab.org

Thank you for your time and consideration!

Best wishes for a wonderful Holiday Season!

~ The CREATE Lab Team

First Summer of The Lemonade Project

The mission of the project was and continues to be—to enlighten and empower youth through the tools of science and art. By researching, designing and constructing site specific, action art projects, which were driven by digital data collected with CREATE Lab tools like the CATTFish, The Lemonade Project aims to not only brew citizen scientists, but cultivates future environmental leaders and educators.
The CATTFish is a digital apparatus that is used to measure the quality of water. 7 to 10 year olds measured the output of the CATTFish in six Allegheny neighborhoods: Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, North Side, Aspinwall, Braddock and Friendship/Garfield. 
Research was publicized via neighborhood Lemonade Stands and Facebook, where the participants shared their comparative findings. The first “stand” and recruiting session took place at The Three Rivers Arts Festival. After that, sessions ran out of the Alloy Studios and the Earthen Vessel summer camp in the East End. From there, the kids designed the stands and they learned to use the CATTFish tool to measure the quality of the water. Lemonade stands then broke out into city parks and local neighborhood streets to spread The Lemonade Project word! Each stand was visited by anywhere from 50 to 100 people.

If you didn't get a chance to stop by the stand this summer, The Lemonade Project plans to be back next summer at a park or neighborhood street near you!

Speck Used in Biodiesel Experiment

Students at Paonia High School wanted to test the “green” claims of biodiesel against the “non-green” stereotype of standard diesel fuel. They created two different biodiesel fuels from both used and unused vegetable oil, and also purchased standard diesel fuel. 

They then tested each of the three fuels by burning them separately in a controlled experiment at the school laboratory, and collected data to see which produced the least amount of air pollutants. The Speck air quality monitor from the Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab and air quality monitors from University of Colorado captured the combustion byproducts, documenting produced particulates, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds.

Paonia High School students Cameron Van Vleet and Noah Haswell conduct a "burn-test" on biodiesel in an experiment they made for the science fair

The students’ experiment was successful.  Biodiesel made from unused vegetable oil created the least amount of pollutants, but also did not burn as hot as the other fuels – raising questions of efficiency. Another area of interest is a “lag” between the production of particulates and carbon dioxide, as seen in the following graph. The students continue to analyze these results, but have concluded that a revised experiment design and additional tests are needed.

But those tests will have to wait. This team of student scientists is currently busy preparing their results for the Colorado State Science and Engineering Fair.

More info about Speck can be found here.

* Update: We are excited to announce that the trio of students who qualified for the state science fair were awarded $15,000 in scholarships! This is the first time in six years that a student from this particular school qualified for the state fair, let alone was awarded a scholarship. Many congratulations to the students and their teachers!

Submit water data to the EPA

WaterBot users and friends,
The EPA announced that it is inviting the public to submit information related to hydraulic fracturing, in support of its study on the potential impact on drinking water resources throughout the country.  This could include: data, studies, scientific analyses and other pertinent scientific information.  This will support the EPA to inform current and future research and ensure a robust record of scientific information.  Check the Federal Register  for more information.  We encourage all citizen scientists out there to submit your data and stories. 
Deadline is 4/30/2012.

Waterbot Installation-2nd Attempt!

The waterbot pilot team of Rick Sharpe (Huntingtin High School) and Brian McNeal (Cabell Midland High School) went out Sunday October 7th, 2012 and installed 2 waterbots along fourpole creek in Huntington.  Fourpole creek is a large creek that runs through the center of Huntington including through Ritter Park. Rick and Brian will be utilizing the data captured by the waterbot and incorporating it into their science classes where they already teach water quality. The waterbot will be a great addition to their curriculum and plans to install a third in Martinsbug, West Virginia with a local science teacher there are in the works. 

Nearby Nature gigablitz, June 20-26, 2012

The challenge: Gigapixel imaging can reveal a surprising range of animal and plant species in the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary settings in which we live, learn, and work. Your challenge is to capture panoramas of Nearby Nature and share them with your peers at gigapan.org for further exploration. We hope that shared panoramas and snapshotting will help the GigaPan community more deeply explore, document, and celebrate the diversity of life forms in their local habitats.

Gigablitz timing: The event will take place over a 7-day period – a gigablitz – that aligns with the June solstice. Please capture and upload your images to the gigapan.org website between 6am, June 20 and 11pm, June 26 (your local time).

Juried selections:    Panoramas that meet the criteria below are eligible for inclusion in the science.gigapan.org Nearby Nature collection. The best panoramas will be selected by a jury for publication in an issue of GigaPan Magazine dedicated to the Nearby Nature collection.  Selection criteria are as follows:


  • Biodiversity: the image is species rich.
  • Uniqueness: the image contains particularly interesting or unique species, or the image captures a sense of the resilience of life-forms in human-dominated settings.
  • Nearby Nature context: image habitat is part of, or very near, the everyday places that people inhabit.
  • Image quality: the image is of high quality and is visually captivating.


Subjects and locations: The gigablitz subject may be any “nearby” location in which you have a personal interest:  schoolyard garden, backyard habitat, balcony planter, village grove, nearby remnant woods, vacant lot meadow next door and others.  Panoramas with high species richness (the range of different species in a given area) that are part of everyday places are especially encouraged.  It is the process of making and sharing gigapans that will transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Here are 3 things to keep in mind when choosing a place:

  • The panorama should focus on organisms in a habitat near your home, school or place of work.
  • Any life-forms are acceptable, such as plants, insects, and other animals.
  • Rich, sharp detail will encourage snapshotters to help identify organisms in your panorama.  Thus, your gigapan unit should be positioned close to the subject habitat – within 100 feet (30 meters) away, and preferably much closer.  Up close mini-habitats in the near-macro range are welcome.

View examples from the June, 2011 collection of Nearby Nature finalists that might inspire your choice of gigablitz subject.

Submission information: You may submit as many panoramas as you wish.  Each panorama should be accompanied by the following:

  • A title that includes the location where the image was captured.
  • 3 required tags:
    • “nearbynature” = tag #1 (a single word)
    • “June” = tag #2
    • “2012” = tag #3
  • A brief statement  (less than 100 words) on your thoughts about the image. Please include your name. Your affiliation is optional. For example:
    • Why did you choose this subject?
    • What is its context?
    • Did you discover anything interesting while you made the image or examined it in detail?
  • Google Earth geolocation is encouraged but not required.

Snapshot titles and description: Once you upload your submission, we encourage you to snapshot all the organisms that you can.  Clear snapshot titles will help the jury to consider your submission.  For example, if you find a frog in your panorama, the following words should be shown in the snapshop title:  “nearbynature” (a single word) and “frog”.  If you wish to include more information, please do so in the snapshot description box.  Don’t worry about getting too specific – visiting snapshotters will help you identify the diversity of life in your panorama.  Your ability to correctly identify organisms is not a criteria for jury selection.

to learn more visit: http://science.gigapan.org/


Harless CREATE Satellite Has Year-End Celebration

The June Harless Center for Rural Educational Research and Development, College of Education at Marshall University, held a year-end celebration showcasing Harless CREATE Satellite projects on May 17, 2012 from 6-8 in the Memorial Student Center’s Don Morris Room.  

Featured projects included: the GigaPan Outreach Project, Arts and Bots, Hear Me, and Message From Me. In addition, a new WaterBot project was introduced.  GigaPan enables students to take GigaPan panoramic images of their communities and activities and share them with peers across the world. Arts and Bots is a customized robot designed to integrate technology, literature, and history through the use of art supplies, circuit boards, lights, motors and sensors. Hear Me seeks to amplify kids voices using media and technology to create a world where kids are heard, acknowledged and understood, thereby giving them the power to inspire change in their lives, communities and the world. WaterBot is a citizen scientist project that prototypes a low-cost, easy and mobile method to monitor water quality, empowering communities, educators and children to monitor their watershed systems.



The Harless CREATE Satellite grant, which was funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, provides rural Appalachian schools continuous and seamless access to technologies, educational resources and ideas generated at the CREATE Lab in Pittsburgh. In addition it enabled teachers to integrate cutting edge technology into existing curriculum.   

Schools showcasing projects are from the Marshall University Professional Development Partnership Schools and include the Early Education STEM Center, Huntington High, Kellogg, Guyandotte and Ceredo Elementary schools, Beverly Hills, Milton, Barboursville Middle schools, as well as Cherry River Elementary in Nicholas county, Beverly Elementary in Randolph county and South Point High School in Ohio.



Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy WaterBot Expedition!

Taiji and Sage installing the first WaterBot.

Hello CMU Create Lab! I was involved in the installation of WaterBots in Frick Park, and was asked by Jessica Pachuta to write an entry for the blog. I hope this is okay!

On Saturday March 24th, after being delayed by torrential downpour and flood warnings, we were finally able to install the final 5 WaterBots in the 9-mile run watershed. Jessica from CMU’s CREATE lab, Taiji from PPC, and myself (Sage, a high school student externing at PPC) spent the entire afternoon setting up the bots. The adventure took 5 hours of tromping through the creek in (leaky) waders, countless zip-ties, and a pit stop at McDonalds, but the weather was great and we all enjoyed being outside!

I’m a senior at the Ellis School, and this year I had the opportunity to have an externship with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. This spring, in addition to being a crew leader at several of the PPC’s volunteer work days, I am going to collect data and monitor the WaterBots. So far, there have been some technological issues which hopefully have already been solved! A far more concerning issue is the missing WaterBot. WaterBot 0009 has mysteriously disappeared, though fortunately all the others are exactly how we left them. Hopefully a reason other than theft will present itself, but considering how well it was anchored down, other explanations seem unlikely. But despite this dilemma, I'm very excited to get to work with the CREATE Lab's WaterBots this spring!


-Sage Lincoln