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Public Lab partnership with NASA AREN project brings new easy-to-use tools for classroom use

by warren | almost 2 years ago | 0 | 3

Since 2011, Public Lab community members around the world have been building and using modified consumer cameras to take multispectral photographs, enabling thousands of people around the world to explore the world around them using vegetation analysis tools such as #NDVI. As illustrated above, comparing infrared and visible light can offer clues to plant health, and DIY cameras like Public Lab's can make this kind of analysis possible on a very small budget.

(this post was cross-posted on the blog)

You can see just a few of these on, and in the new (beta) NDVI tool in Here, DIY aerial infrared photos of a farm in Canada can help reveal healthier and less healthy areas of crops:

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Building on an initial low-cost technique for modifying consumer cameras to take multispectral photographs (by switching a filter behind the lens), Public Lab community contributors have developed a suite of web-based multispectral analysis tools to lower barriers and engage members of the public in using these techniques for the analysis of agriculture, land use, runoff and water quality, wetlands restoration, urban planning, hydroponics, and many other applications.

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Now, in partnership with the AREN project at NASA and in collaboration with the GLOBE program (and with support from Google Summer of Code), Public Lab is now developing a set of in-classroom materials and resources for students to learn about earth observation and image analysis in an experiential way, from constructing their own multispectral cameras to using the free and open source spectral analysis tools provided by Public Lab. These images show the two types of single-camera modifications - one resulting in a blue-toned image, and one in a red-toned one. It's also possible to do this with two cameras.

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If you teach in or out of a classroom and are interested in how remote sensing, satellite imaging, or vegetation analysis could be part of your education work, we're eager to work with you!

Learn more at and check out our starter kits for modifying cameras at

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New accessibility features for making aerial maps in MapKnitter

by warren | almost 2 years ago | 6 | 1

Map-making with your aerial photos is an important part of balloon or kite mapping. It's like making puzzles -- SOME people really love it and SOME people really don't!

MapKnitter -- now entering it's 9th year as a free and open source project hosted by Public Lab -- has slowly been getting upgrades and refinements that make it easier to use.

We've just posted an update that made MapKnitter more accessible, with new differently-shaped handle icons that also work on tablets, where map-making can be more collaborative. See it in action in the GIF above.

We also made the handles larger, which makes it easier to use on a tablet -- iPads make for a great way to get a group together and stitch a map in a group.

Give it a try at!

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...or if you're working on your own mapping projects and want to use just the distortion component, check out our stand-alone library, Leaflet Distortable Image:

**Update **I also wanted to highlight that 2 different first-time contributors helped make this latest version possible!

Thanks to Nana Adjedu and Jason for their help in completing this update!

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Community Microscope-- THANK YOU

by Bronwen | almost 2 years ago | 1 | 1

Thanks to the 357 supporters of our recent Kickstarter campaign, the Community Microscope will soon be shipping to community scientists, environmental investigators and advocates, teachers and learners, artists, makers, and lots of other folks who got involved with making this project happen.

Over the course of this campaign we were lucky to work with people from within the Public Lab community who chimed in to offer suggestions, support, criticism and refinements. Everyone's work and care for this project has given us the chance to introduce new people to our work-- though events at two different Maker Faires (Bay Area and Providence), a workshop at the Nueva School, and through lots of social media and real-life conversations with people who are getting excited about the world of possibilities available to them with open source tools.

We wanted to thank everyone who made this possible, in full open source spirit -

  1. Our collaborators in Wisconsin
  2. the Hackteria network
  3. Lifepatch in Indonesia
  4. Max Liboiron and the CLEAR lab
  5. Parts & Crafts
  6. WaterScope and the Open Flexure Microscope team
  7. Our Google Summer of Code fellow MaggPi
  8. And so many more!

We're already starting work to get the Early Bird kits shipped; stay tuned on Twitter and Instagram to see our progress, and get ready to #RemixTheMicroscope!

Keep your eyes open for more documentation and activities going up on the Community Microscope page on Public Lab's website in the coming weeks and months as this project continues to grow!


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Rain Barrel and Rain Gauge Build with 7th Ward Residents

by stevie | almost 2 years ago | 1 | -2

This past weekend, Public Lab and Recharge NOLA, with Water Wise 7th Ward, led a joint workshop to build rain gauges and rain barrels with New Orleans 7th Ward residents at Dillard Community Resource Center. Over the course of the event, 20 participants worked to build 11 rain gauges and 11 rain barrels.

For the first part of the workshop, participants shared ideas and examples for why rain gauges are useful and important. For example:

  • In New Orleans, rain data comes from the airport, which often doesn’t reflect more localized rain data.
  • The rain gauge can help people figure out how much rain it takes accumulate stormwater in a local area and cause flooding.
  • The gauge can also help us to know how much water is in a rain barrel after a rain event.

We then used instructions based off of these materials to consturct rain gauges together.

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This was the first time I had done this workshop, so gathering edits and ideas for the instructional materials was really helpful. For example the materials need to explicitly say that the gauges need to sit on a flat surface when people are drawing the lines, and that using food coloring in the water can make the water line easier to see. Participants also brainstormed ideas on how to set the gauges up outside after the event, for example we discussed options around signposts, zip ties, hose clamps, and even flower pots. image description

In the second part of the workshop, Hilairie Schackai with Recharge NOLA, a partner of Water Wise Water Wise used materials she had put together ([available here] ( to explain the importants, and the various uses of rain barrels. She then walk participants through constructing their own barrels.

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I had never participated in a rain barrel workshop before and some of the important takeaways I had from the experience were that:

  • The barrels need to be emptied after each rain event, so they are useful in helping to reduce stormwater runoff during the next storm.
  • It’s important to use screen materials over the holes on the rain barrels to keep mosquitos and their larvae out.
  • While rain barrels are fun and useful in thinking about alternative uses of stormwater (watering your lawn or garden, washing cars, and generally reducing your water bill), they also significantly reduce the amount of water our stormwater system needs to handle in a rain event. The data Hillarie about the relationship between rain captured and flooding was staggering - read her materials!

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New documentary: Promise in the Sand

by stevie | almost 2 years ago | 0 | 5

Lead photo from Promise in the Sand Facebook page

This week, Wendy Johnson & Jim Tittle of Midwest Pictures, LLC released their new documentary "Promise in the Sand" about frack sand mining in the Driftless region. The 24 minute piece follows the communities still struggling with the economic, environmental, and human health impacts of this arm of the fracking industry. Friends featured in this piece include the Swenson family (@dswenson), and Hank Bochon (referenced in the Community Science Forum: the frac sand issue here) of "Promise in the Sand" is a follow up to Midwest Pictures' first documentary on the frack sand mining issue, "The Price of Sand," that was released in 2013. It also comes on the heals of Dr. Thomas Pearson's recent book, "When the Hills are Gone: Frac Sand Mining and the Struggle for Community."

Watch, Read, Share!

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Introducing the SERC Manual

by AyakoM | about 2 years ago | 1 | 2

The SERC Manual is part of the Public Lab Press, a project to distribute written works from allies and community members and organizations.

To paraphrase William Gibson, "The social emergency is already here, it's just unevenly distributed."

In emergencies like hurricanes and tsunamis, emergency response centers exist to coordinate evacuations or provide services like temporary housing, food, and water. We want you to join us in re-imagining response centers to take on the real and pressing social emergency that we are facing today.

In 2017, Design Studio for Social Intervention created Social Emergency Response Centers (SERCs) to help people understand the moment we're in, from all different perspectives. Since then, over 20 SERCs have happened in 16 months, nationally and internationally.

Co-created with activists, artists and community members, SERCs are temporary, pop-up spaces that help us move from rage and despair into collective, radical action. SERCs are continuing and growing---a people-led public infrastructure sweeping the country from Boston to Utica, MS to Atlanta, Albuquerque, Washington DC, Chicago, Orange, NJ, Hartford, CT, Canada and Serbia... They are popping up in homes, community centers, schools, colleges, churches and conferences. SERCs function as both an artistic gesture and a practical solution. As such,they aim to find the balance between the two, answering questions like: How will we feed people--and their hunger for justice? How will we create a shelter--where it's safe to bring your whole damn self? What will reconstruction--of civil society--look like?

Interested in running your own SERC? This SERC Manual has everything you need from timelines, supply lists and suggested budgets. All it needs is you, a friend or team to get the ball rolling.

The SERC manual is now available through the Public Lab Press here

SERC is a project by the Design Studio for Social Intervention.and we are excited to be sharing SERC Manuals through the Public Lab Store to all of you! For technical assistance on getting started, or a SERC Kit, we'd love to hear from you! Contact us anytime at

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