Archive for the ‘DIY’ tag

Spectral Challenge: Public Lab launches a new project to improve open source technology

By March 28th, 2013 at 9:14 am | Comment

Spectral Challenge
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.

What would you do with this technology?

By February 4th, 2013 at 8:47 am | Comment

Marblar SciStarter

Scientific research aims to answer questions, progress disciplinary knowledge, and ultimately better society by providing new applications of technology and ideas toward common problems. But, over time, the products of our countless research projects, while potentially still useful, go unutilized, and can be forgotten in the basements of University libraries or the dusty archives of journal collections.

This perhaps all too common problem is exactly the motivation behind an new exciting project called Marblar.

The premise: Marblar provides you with the overlooked technologies and ideas, and you – the citizen scientist – provide the applications. Non-traditional, yes, but it’s challenging, engaging, and a fun game where citizen scientists can compete with other across the globe.

I recently spoke with co-founder Dan Antonio Perez to find out his hopes for the project and what he thought of Marblar’s role in citizen science.

“Collaboration is the focus,” Dan said.

The Marblar team spends a lot of time identifying the most interesting technology that can inspire Marblars and generate the most useful applications. Current technologies include a a microchip that can harness the power of motion, ‘Super Foams’ made from emulsions, and a brand new desalination device.

Marblars are given three weeks to post their ideas, discuss with other players, and even collaborate with the inventors to arrive at a final solution. While there are some small cash rewards and other small prizes for top entries, the real reward, Dan says, is that users have a chance to participate in meaningful science and help create ideas with potential.

Through the amazingly easy-to-use Marblar interface, I was also able to speak with several of the top Marblars who have been involved in this process.

Dave, a Biochemistry Ph.D. student studying at The University of Oxford, claimed that the prizes were not important to him. Rather, he was excited to collaborate with people from diverse scientific backgrounds.

After years out of the lab, a top Marblar user, Maria, was excited to get back into the thrill of scientific discussion.

Juan Carlos, a University researcher, was most interested in the fact that in discussing ideas, he was able to get feedback from users outside of his discipline.

This type of broad, multi-discipline collaboration is what makes Marblar such a unique citizen science activity. There is really something for everyone who is interested in science. And they are only getting started. Dan sees Marblar as having great potential for engaging the public and offering a fun way for citizens to engage with some really great minds in science.

It’s science. I’ts a game. And it’s fun. Marblar has some lofty goals, but from my first impressions, they have already achieved quite a bit. I can’t wait to see what’s next.


Contest unites citizen scientists with DIYers! (Win cool prizes if you enter by Monday!)

By January 17th, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Comment

This post originally appeared on PLOS blogs.

SciStarter, Instructables, and Discover Magazine - Citizen Science Contest

This post was originally published on CitizenSci, a PLOS blog about the projects, people, and perspectives fueling new frontiers for citizen science.

Hear ye, hear ye! This is an open call to artists, engineers, filmmakers, scientists, hobbyists, lobbyists, foodies, gamers, musicians, photogs, techies, adults, kids, dreamers, schemers, hackers, slackers, athletes, and everyone in between. This is a call to all—SciStarter needs you (yes, you)!

In case you haven’t heard yet, SciStarter has partnered with Instructablesand Discover Magazine to help researchers find solutions to real problems that they encounter in their projects. The Citizen Science Contest is your opportunity to help contribute to scientific discovery. (Prizes include a Celestron telescope, DISCOVER subscriptions, and time-lapse cameras!)

We’ve interviewed four citizen science project organizers and asked them to identify the greatest challenges in their work—challenges that you can help them overcome. Perhaps you’re a seasoned gardener and have tips for The Great Sunflower Project on how to prevent critters from eating plants before they flower. Have some ideas about how to use odds and ends around the household to construct inexpensive hail pads? The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHs) could use your help! Think your tech savvy is up to par? Maybe you can come up with suggestions for Project Budburst and Wildlife of Our Homes, both of which are looking for ways to improve the way their volunteers record and submit collected data.

Help researchers, in prizes!

The Instructables DIY community spans an unimaginably vast spectrum of disciplines. We’re hoping that this contest will help these citizen science project managers find creative, interdisciplinary solutions that come from outside of the box. We can’t do it alone, though. You can help make their experiences better by submitting a new citizen science project you’ve developed, present a tool that may be used for current/future citizen science projects, or help spark questions they might not have thought of by participating in discussion.

Here’s the thing, though. The contest ends this upcoming Monday, January 21st! If you have some ideas, navigate to the contest page to take a look. The clock is ticking!