Igniting a Revolution – High Tech Citizen Science

Igniting a Revolution – High Tech Citizen Science

[abstract][presentation resources]



[dropcap]T[/dropcap]able Top Inventing’s Chief Maker and Resident Mad Scientist, Steve Kurti is delivering an impassioned plea at the 2015 BC Conference on Learning Technologies in Bakersfield, CA, about the importance of maker education as a catalyst for citizen science initiatives. 

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith the rise of 3D printing and open micro-processing platforms, we now have the basic tools to create high-tech science tools. The internet and easily accessible databases allow multiple sites and individuals to collaborate on a project. Motivated high school or community college students can now collect a part of the data, upload it to a central database and participate in the analysis.

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s teachers of science, we need to prepare a new generation to embrace and access the available tools.  3D printing opens the possibility of creating custom parts for complex machines, open microprocessor platforms enable complex data collection, and with a little time, digital signal processing may even find its way into the hands of commoners due to the price and availability of Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGAs).

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith this knowledge, students no longer need to sit on the sidelines wating for the professionals. Come listen in to discover the power and perils of the new science revolution.

[box type=”alert” size=”large”]If you are not a Maker yet, [highlight]BECOME A MAKER![/highlight] Go look for makerspaces in your area. Get involved! Make sciency things! We don’t need any more consumers. We have plenty of them already. Become a creator. Come join the revolution! Be a Maker! Become a scientist! It’s time for Revolution! [highlight]Ask us how![/highlight][/box]


Presentation Resources:

What is Open-Source Hardware?

  • Similar to the open-source software
  • Freely shared, community driven, and community created
  • May include mechanical drawings, parts lists, places to purchase parts, electrical schematics, and even open-source software to run it.


What is Citizen Science?

  • According to Wikipedia:  Citizen science (also known as crowd science, crowd-sourced science, civic science, or networked science) is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists. Formally, citizen science has been defined as “the systematic collection and analysis of data; development of technology; testing of natural phenomena; and the dissemination of these activities by researchers on a primarily avocational basis.”  Citizen science is sometimes included in terms such as “public participation in scientific research” and participatory action research.


What is Open-Source Science Equipment?

  • Open-source science equipment is created when citizen science meets open-source hardware.


Short Case Study on an Open Electrospinner Platform


Assembly Photos

 Electrospinner Build 01 Electrospinner Build 02 
 Electrospinner Build 03 Electrospinner Build 04 
 Electrospinner Build 05 Electrospinner Build 06 
 Electrospinner Build 06 Electrospinner Build 08 
 Electrospinner Build 09 Electrospinner Build 10 

Finished prototype

Electrospinner Build 11

First Test

Electrospinning Nanofibers



Some open innovation communities

  • OpenIDEO:  OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform.  Join our global community to solve big challenges
    for social good.
  • Boston Open-Source Science (BOSS) Center:  goal to open scientific exploration to all & to help solve problems we face on Earth.
  • Public Lab:  a community where you can learn how to investigate environmental concerns. Using inexpensive DIY techniques, we seek to change how people see the world in environmental, social, and political terms.
  • Open Source Hardware Association:  The Open Source Hardware Association aims to be the voice of the open hardware community, ensuring that technological knowledge is accessible to everyone, and encouraging the collaborative development of technology that serves education, environmental sustainability, and human welfare.


Citizen Science Projects

  • ZomBee Watch:  Fly-parasitized honey bees become “ZomBees” showing the “zombie-like behavior” of leaving their hives at night on “a flight of the living dead.”  The fly is native to most of North America. It has expanded its host range to include the non-native honey bee, the most important pollinator of agricultural crops.
  • Cities at Night:  We need volunteers to help us sort the pictures and identify the locations of the images to create maps of light pollution. This will help governments and local authorities to make the right decisions to reduce light pollution.
  • Air Quality Egg:  (past Kickstarter project) A community-led air quality sensing network that gives people a way to participate in the conversation about air quality.
  • Smart Phone Microscope:  Combine your iPhone or tablet with a 3D-printed clip and glass sphere to create an inexpensive, yet powerful, microscope (video).
  • Geiger Counter:  Geiger Kits provide the electronics needed to run, and detect events from a GM tube. The events are counted and displayed as CPM and dose rate by a microprocessor running pre-loaded software. Counts can also be output to a PC via a serial connection (story of connection to Fukushima).
  • Ph-duino:  this is an electronic circuit to be connected with a glass electrode pH sensor.
  • Earthquake Detector:  Have you ever wanted to impress your friends by saying something crazy like, “I think there’s going to be an earthquake soon” moments before an earthquake hits? (Story of the Chilean teen who started the idea)
  • Open Source Satellites (Ardusat):  an education technology company that provides the unique opportunity to connect the universe to the classroom. With our next generation learning resources, students can create their own satellite experiments and collect real-world space-data. We provide teachers with STEM learning resources, professional development, and hands-on materials that give students an experience that is truly out of this world. (Link to BlueCubeSat, another small company working with middle schools and cubesats)
  • LEGO2NANO Atomic Force Microscope:  The LEGO AFM contains a sample stage that moves in x and y direction, a cantilever holder that moves in z direction, a laser and a photo detector to readout the deformation of the cantilever and a control system based on Arduino.
  • RepRap Project:  RepRap takes the form of a free desktop 3D printer capable of printing plastic objects. Since many parts of RepRap are made from plastic and RepRap prints those parts, RepRap self-replicates by making a kit of itself – a kit that anyone can assemble given time and materials. It also means that – if you’ve got a RepRap – you can print lots of useful stuff, and you can print another RepRap for a friend… 
  • Open Source Electrospinner:  This is a new project aimed at bringing “practical” nanotechnology to citizen science.  As we get more and more nanomaterials into products their dissemination in the environment (transport) and where they ultimately accumulate (fate) are open questions.  Scientists know a little about the topic but not much is known practically.  This open piece of hardware is the first of it’s kind with the aim being to create several follow on projects designed to allow citizens to test for the presence, quantity, and size of nanoparticles in the environment.
  • List of other Projects:  most projects are currently simple reporting type projects, but makerspaces enable the creation of much more sophisticated projects.


Enabling Technologies for Open Science Hardware

  • 3D Printers (consumer models):  enables short run and custom manufacturing of just about any mechanical part needed for science equipment.  Fused filament printers using thermoplastics will be most practical for designs down to 10 thousandths of an inch.  UV curing resin printers will be practical for designs requiring resolution down to 1-3 thousandth of an inch.
  • open 3d printers
  • Laser Cutters:  enable building of larger parts not practical on a typical 3D printer such as custom cases, large gears, and scaffolding.  Building flexible materials from inflexible ones is an interesting possibility with laser cutters.  Most consumer laser cutters use an Argon ion laser which is really only effective for cutting flammable materials such as wood, cardboard, paper, plastics, foam, etc.
  • 3D CAD Software:  Open SCAD, Invent, Sketchup, 123D products, Inkscape (not 3D but extrudable and used for Laser cutting patterns).
  • Arduino Platform: enables data collection, intelligent control, communications, sensor monitoring, actuator control, and feedback-control loops.  Easy to connect and monitor sensors.
  • Beagle Bone:  enables data collection, intelligent control, communications, sensor monitoring, actuator control, and feedback-control loops.  Easy to connect and monitor sensors.  Beagle Bone connects to the internet more easily and runs faster than the typical Arduino.
  • Raspberry Pi:  enables internet connected interfaces and GUI based applications.
  • Cell Phones:  with great cameras, accelerometers, IR communication, Blue Tooth, Internet, fast processing, and other features, cell phones are probably one of the best platforms for developing widely deployable applications for citizen science.
  • Great Cameras:  digital SLR cameras now have such high resolutions that they could be adapted for use as sensors for spectrophotometers, custom imaging applications, and non-imaging optical projects involving lasers, etc.  The major drawback is that they typically are not very hackable.  However, by combining with the above technologies, they can be used for devices such as 3D scanners, laser speckle detectors, and other equipment requiring high res imaging.
  • FPGA’s:  while not particularly easy to work with, FPGA’s are probably one of the most powerful technologies on the market.  FPGA’s allow the creation of electronic measurement (oscilloscopes, digital multimeters, spectrum analyzers, and a host of other time-frequency domain instruments).  However it may be quite some time before enough qualified engineers would be willing to lend their expertise.
  • Other technologies to watch:  Launch Pad from Texas Instruments, the Nanode for internet connected devices, 3D printers using laser sintering for affordable creation of metal parts.


Books, Videos, and More about Citizen Science

  • Open Source Electrospinner:  This video shows an electrospinner, the parts, and what it does.  You should also check out the first test.
  • Chandra Clarke:  The good news is that you *can* do something.  It’s called citizen science, and it’s a way for ordinary people like you and me to do real, honest-to-goodness, help-answer-the-big-questions science.


Table Top Inventing is a green company powered by wind.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Muahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!! Ok, now that I have that out... I can get to work. For as long as I can remember, I have been making things. This habit used to be called "Inventing" but has lately been repurposed by the Maker community with the term "Maker". While there are some subtle differences between Inventing and Making, I have discovered my passion for both by inspiring a new generation of Makers. In this quest to spark creative thinking and problem solving through practical and exciting projects, I draw on my background in biomedical research, high energy fiber laser development, and 15 years of building laboratory devices. As an experimental physicist with a PhD from Case Western Reserve University, I have seen research and development from many angles and am now bringing that experience to middle school and high school students who want to make everything from catapults to cybernetic augmentations. Through the medium of Making and Inventing, students are transformed from passive observers of education to active learners. This powerful shift fosters deep insights, creative expression, collaborative thinking and a host of other skills that are difficult to learn in traditional settings. Along with my wife Debby, an accomplished constructivist educator, I am on a quest to transform education and am looking for like-minded collaborators to bring hands-on learning to future generations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *