Public Lab has launched Spectral Challenge, a two-part crowd funded project to improve the use of open source spectrometers. A spectrometer is a common research tool which uses light to identify an unknown substance’s chemical composition.
Last year, members of the PLOTS community successfully developed a versatile and user friendly $40 spectrometer. While more accessible, the difficulty is making such open source technology reliable. That is where this new project comes in.
Spectral Challenge Stage 1 “Collaboration” ask participants to develop methodology which will improve and standardize the use of open-source spectrometers. Techniques need to be documented and submitted by May 31. The winning team will receive $1000 from the crowd funded prize pool.
Stage 2 “Real World Use” applies these improved methods for research on environmental pollutants such as petroleum or toxic heavy metals. Stage 2 starts June 5 and more details of the competition will follow. Winners will receive 80% of the prize pool money and the remaining 20% will be used to promote future open source technology through the Public Lab nonprofit.
Public Lab emerged from a collaboration between the Grassroots Mapping Community and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade following the 2010 BP oil spill. Its mission is to foster civic science by developing various open-source tools to further environmental research. These tools could be used by formal researchers and citizen scientists alike. Back in September 2012, SciStarter joined with Public Lab to help promote their tools as they related to citizen science projects in the SciStarter Project Finder.