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Community Microscope-- THANK YOU

by bronwen | 4 months 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 | 4 months ago | 2 | -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 | 4 months ago | 1 | 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 New Contributor | 5 months 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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Announcing 10 Summer of Code projects for 2018

by warren | 6 months ago | 14 | 5


We're happy to announce we're accepting 9 students through Google Summer of Code this season. This is almost double last year's 5 slots, and reflects big, positive changes in our community this past year.Update: we also just learned that we are working with a team of two through Rails Girls Summer of Code!

(I've cross-posted this here)

We've seen a dramatic rise in newcomers over the past year (read more here and follow #software-outreach), and over a dozen contributors emerged as community leaders, not only championing larger and more complex projects, but also welcoming in and supporting newcomers to grow our community. Many of this year's students are in this group.

Congratulations and thanks: @MaggPi, @Gauravano @namangupta @Vidit @tech4GT @mridulnagpal @bansal_sidharth2996 @sagarpreet @Souravirus

See all the proposals here:

Title Author Updated Likes
GSOC-18 Email notification overhaul. @vidit about 1 month ago
Gsoc 2018: Final Work Product - Email notification overhaul @vidit about 1 month ago
GSoC 2018: Upgrade of Public Lab to Rails 5.2 @souravirus 2 months ago
GSoC 2018: Final Work Product of Draft Feature and Email Integration Project @gauravano 2 months ago
GSOC Multi Party Auth System @bansal_sidharth2996 2 months ago
GSoC Submission for Leaflet Blurred Location Part 2 @mridulnagpal 2 months ago
GSoC Proposal: Draft Feature & Email Integration Project @gauravano 2 months ago
GSoC 2018 Wrap-Up Post @sagarpreet 2 months ago
GSoC proposal: Computer Vision enhancements for Raspberry Pi based Public Lab Science Projects @MaggPi 6 months ago
GSoC proposal: Social Media Integration and Leaflet-Layers Library . @sagarpreet 6 months ago
GSoC proposal: Upgrade to Rails 5 @souravirus 7 months ago
GSoC proposal: Leaflet Blurred Location Part 2 @mridulnagpal 7 months ago
GSoC proposal: Email integration Project @namangupta 7 months ago
GSoc Proposal: OAuth & Upgrade to Bootstrap 4 @bansal_sidharth2996 7 months ago
GSoC proposal: Image-Sequencer v2 : Processing on steroids @tech4gt 7 months ago
Show 5 more

We'd also like to thank those who have made it possible, through their supportive mentoring, for our community to see such successes -- including those who help (beyond coding) to shape the course of our software projects by proposing new features, and those who help to set the positive, welcoming tone that makes our project one which people want to join.

Congratulations to our 9 summer projects, and thanks also to those whose projects weren't selected. We wish we could work with all of you, and we deeply appreciate what you contribute.

PS: For a cool animation of our collaboration, check out this page and press RUN:

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Hacked Infragram Raspberry Pi camera now on the International Space Station

by warren | 7 months ago | 3 | 2

(Reposted from the Rosco company blog with permission)

This blog post covers an exciting development over at the Astro Pi Challenge, which builds on work by Public Lab contributor @nedhorning, @cfastie, and many others from the Infragram project, (including collaborators from Farm Hack) from the past few years. We are currently working in partnership with NASA's AREN project on the Infragram platform and the Image Sequencer project designed specifically for this kind of hacked Raspberry Pi camera! Great job, folks!

The European Astro Pi Challenge gives students the opportunity to run science experiments using two Astro Pi Computers that are aboard the International Space Station. Russian Soyuz Mission MS-08 recently delivered upgrades for the Astro Pi Computers -- including some Rosco color filters -- that will allow some of those students to conduct their own observations of our planet's vegetation while safely at home on Earth.

LIFTOFF! @Astro_Ricky, @Astro_Feustel and @OlegMKS launched at 1:44pm ET in their Soyuz spacecraft. The trio will travel on a two day journey before reaching their new home on @Space_Station this Friday. Watch:

— NASA (@NASA) March 21, 2018

The Astro Pi Computers include many different sensors to collect data, but one of them is equipped with an infrared, Pi NoIR Camera from Raspberry Pi that enables the students to observe Earth's vegetation health and growth from space. A Pi NoIR Camera features the same technical properties as a standard camera, except that it has the IR filter removed so that it can perceive the infrared spectrum of light.

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Astro Pi computer equipped with Pi NoIR Camera

The upgrades that recently arrived at the I.S.S. included some Rosco #2007 Storaro Blue filters that have been modified for installation onto the Astro Pi Computer. The R2007 filter was laser-cut to friction-fit onto the 12 inner heatsink pins on the base of the Astro Pi unit and positioned so that the aperture of the Pi NoIR Camera is properly covered.

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Raspberry Pi Camera -- laser cutting the R2007 filter -- Astro Pi Computer with R2007 filter installed

Some of the student teams taking part in the Astro Pi competition are investigating the health of vegetation on Earth. Having learned that plants grow through photosynthesis, what they're learning now is how photosynthesis translates into color reflectance. Healthy plants reflect a significant amount of infrared energy, which is invisible to the naked eye. Most of the visible spectrum (predominantly blue and red wavelengths) is absorbed, with some green light reflected. This accounts for the green color that we see in healthy vegetation. As stress in plants increases, photosynthesis slows down or stops, infrared wavelengths are absorbed and more visible red light is reflected, which accounts for the "browning" of unhealthy vegetation.

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The R2007 filter absorbs most of the red and green wavelengths while allowing the blue and near-IR sections of the spectrum to pass onto the camera's sensor. By examining the data in this "infra-blue" energy, the Astro Pi Computer can evaluate the photosynthetic activity of plants by calculating the ratio of blue and infrared light that is reflected from plants to determine the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). The students back on Earth can use this NDVI measurement to assess plant-health around the world.

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Image setup (L), resulting NDVI image (r) (via @nedhorning)

Since the R2007 filters have only just arrived at the International Space Station, we don't have any of the imagery the Astro Pi Computers will capture yet. The image above from, however, uses a similar technique and is an excellent example of what that NDVI imagery might look like. Note how the healthy grass registers blue/green, while the dead grass in the upper left corner registers green/yellow/red. You can find more information about this NDVI experiment and learn how to shoot your own NDVI imagery on this Public Lab webpage.

If you'd like more information about Raspberry Pi and how their affordable, easy-to-use technology is encouraging kids around the world to code computers -- even in space -- visit To learn more about the filter products used in these experiments, be sure to explore our Rosco Color Filters webpage.

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