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Public Lab focuses on open science education at 2013 barnraising

by Shannon | about 7 years ago | 0 | 1

Cross-posted from PBS IdeaLab blog

Co-authored by Shannon Dosemagen, Jessi Breen and Liz Barry

This year’s Public Lab Barnraising brought 50 people together in Louisiana for our annual, retreat-style community gathering. This is the closest thing we have to a Public Lab conference — but with an emphasis on “doing stuff together” rather than just presenting/talking. In the spirit of bringing a community together to collectively raise a structure such as a barn, Public Lab comes together in-person to develop tools, toolkits, supporting materials such as guides and tutorials, test the tools, and develop new research directions and projects. Participants represent a wide range of interests, from technologists and designers to social scientists and community organizers. As we prepared for the 2013 barnraising, we all crossed our fingers that we’d be storm free between the East and Gulf Coasts, unlike last year when Hurricane Sandy disrupted many travelers. However, we weren’t so lucky!

On October 3, with community members already in the air en route to New Orleans, we received news from LUMCON (the research center on the Gulf Coast where we would be lodging, meeting, and conducting research) that they were facing a potential 2-3 foot storm surge from Tropical Storm Karen and would be shutting their entire facility down and canceling our conference. Panic ensued, but only briefly. With some quick work and kind hearts, within a couple of hours gracious hospitality was offered to us by University of New Orleans TRAC and Propeller co-working space who agreed to house and host barnraisers joining us from as far away as Jerusalem and London.

Exploring Education

And so we convened. Following time-tested principles of Open Space Technology, the group gathered to explore this year’s theme of education. We proposed sessions that would enable us to arrive at the end of our time together with a workable plan for supporting education initiatives in the coming year. Some plenaries were agreed upon in advance — for instance, we reserved an entire morning to discuss our diverse community’s ethics of practice and to collaboratively write our value statement where we each contributed statements in the form of, “as a member of the Public Lab community I value …”

We also reserved afternoons for outdoor field trips, weather permitting, and the hands-on kite flying took advantage of the pre-tropical storm winds. Back indoors, breakout sessions ranged from mini-hacking sessions on ongoing projects like the thermal temperature bob (tested in a bathtub) and potentiostats, to discussions on structuring Public Lab tool workshops using dialogue education techniques.

Much progress was made by a dedicated group of teachers working to connect Public lab activities with U.S. federal standards for kindergarten-12th grade core curriculum. The diversity of sessions was representative of the diversity of individuals attending the barnraising — practitioners, NGO workers, journalists, activists, academics, designers, teachers.

IMG_1653.JPG Parking lot flare spectrometry

Throughout the three-day conference, the rhythm pulsed between plenary sessions attended by all to small group breakouts for getting work done, which kept the group fresh and productive. The “Rule of Two Feet” governed; as stated by Harrison Owen, “If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet, go someplace else.” The spirit of “Be Prepared to Be Surprised” infused our encounters with open mindedness. Each session had a note taker using the “Talk” page (etherpad) of the relevant Public Lab wiki page. All notes and photo/video documentation were gathered here.

IMG_1550.JPG The dialogue education group

We wrapped up our third and final day together by listing out the outcomes of all sessions and the commitments made by individuals and Working Groups. There is now a Writing Group, a Water Quality Group, and a revamped Education group specifically working towards adapting Public Lab tools to integrate with the U.S. science education standards and generate “hello world” type experiments for use in the classroom. New community members joined the Public Lab organizers, a group of nominated community leaders who meet weekly and guide the way our community collaborates and grows.

The Open Space Technology Experience

It is worth noting that contemporary unconferences in the tech world employ some but not all of the principles of open space technology. In an open space technology experience, people work towards solving a problem or answering a question in the context of complexity and diversity. This stands in contrast to standard tech world “birds of a feather” meetings, which emphasize homogeneity and breakout sessions featuring uni-directional presentations. In open space technology, everyone tackles issues that are part of the same overarching issue. Open space technology emphasizes not only setting the agenda, but within each session, collaborating on the shared goals that were established at outset. It’s about getting work done together.

We are already planning for next year’s barnraising. We are committed to gathering in the Gulf Coast, and have accepted the fact that once again we will likely have to call it a hurricane party!

The 2013 Barnraising was sponsored with generous support from Rackspace and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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New Ways of Seeing in Jerusalem - the Environment + Justice Micro Magazine

by hagitkeysar | about 7 years ago | 0 | 1

I wrote a short piece about my work with Public Lab's tools in Jerusalem for the first issue of Evidence and Influence Micro-Magazine, edited by the Tactical Technology Collective. In this issue you can also find a piece by Mikel Maron who shares 10 inspirational environmental maps, including public lab's stuff, and other really interesting pieces from Lebannon, Liberia, Sudan, and more, in the context of info-activism. Check it out.

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Public Lab Community Newsletter - August 30, 2013

by warren | about 7 years ago | 0 | 0

(Above, an aerial image taken at last year's Extreme Citizen Science balloon mapping at University College London)

Hello all -- happy Friday; we've got a LOT of events in coming weeks, so be sure to look for things happening near you! Want to add things to the newsletter? Email

Remember -- you can subscribe to this newsletter or follow via RSS.


Public Labs has joined the Gulf Monitoring Consortium. “working together to investigate and publicize pollution in the Gulf region” -- read more at

A new map of regional Public Lab groups has been posted at -- which also links to the start a chapter page

Skytruth, a fellow (and founding) member of the Gulf Monitoring Consortium, is crowdfunding an attempt to use thermal photography to map gas flares from North Dakota's Bakken Shale. Read more here:

Upcoming Events

Check out the LEAFFEST weekend gathering in Salisbury, Vermont on September 7 & 8 -- (This is a great opportunity to get involved in infrared photography research.)

Barnraising topic sessions brainstorming has begun as the 2013 Public Lab conference approaches:

Farm Hack has asked if Public Lab would also join them at the Maine Common Ground Country Faire that same weekend!

Mathew and Shannon are doing a couple of workshops next week in London. If you know anyone interested in participating, please contact Shannon at

Sept. 6th 18:30-22:30: Kite/Balloon Mapping First workshop]( making kites @ the Mildmay Community Centre, N16 8NA, East London

Sept. 7th 11:00-16:00: Kite/Balloon Mapping Second workshop: fly, map, & interpret @ the Mildmay Community Centre, N16 8NA, East London

Sun 8th Sept 14:00-17:30: DIY Spectrometry - introduction to spectrometry workshop @ UCL, Gower St. main entrance.

Mon 9th Sept 18:30-22:30: Testing the PLOTS DIY Spectrometer workshop: 'advanced' applications @ UCL, Gower St. main entrance

Join your fellow Public Labbers at World Maker Faire the weekend of September 21-22! -- We will be making a main stage presentation as well as staffing two (2!) tables: our own, and one inside the Farm Hack tent to highlight the Infragram. This is a great opportunity to hang out with some visiting Public Lab folks from out of town. I (Liz Barry) personally guarantee it will be a fun time. There will be a lot of visitors to our table so it's a great chance to speak about your own work if desired and make connections! Please email if you can attend.

New and ongoing projects

Brief report back and image sharing from the Tidmarsh Farms meetup last weekend:


Research Note highlights

Detecting cyanobacterial blooms with Infragram cameras (above image) near the Museum of Science in Boston:

A contributor from Spain posts about an improved spectrometer design for testing liquid samples:

An Australian contributor shares his high precision agricultural mapping an offers suppor to others attempting similar work: (see image below)

Hot topics on the mailing lists

Spectrometry curricular materials for younger students:!topic/plots-spectrometry/fuwa0T__PZs

Detecting lead in lipsticks with spectrometry:!topic/plots-spectrometry/oDWsa9k2_OQ


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Public Lab Community Newsletter - August 23, 2013

by warren | about 7 years ago | 0 | 0

Happy Friday, Public Lab! Lots happening this week between updates on two Kickstarters, hundreds of new potential contributors to our infrared photography project, and various announcements and upcoming events. Stay cool, summer’s almost over!

Remember -- you can subscribe to this newsletter or follow via RSS.


We’re proud to announce that Public Lab is a Semi-Finalist for the Buckminster Fuller Challenge!

Public Lab’s store is now carrying balloon mapping kits with a new box design by Nickolas Peter Chelyapov.

Upcoming Events

Planning and registration continues for the October Public Lab Barnraising in Cocodrie, Louisiana

Sunday Aug 25th, 11am-4pm in Manomet Massachusetts: Infrared balloon mapping event at Tidmarsh Farms with the MIT Media Lab’s Responsive Environments group and Public Lab

The Open Hardware Summit 2013 is coming up on September 6 at MIT (a number of Public Lab folks will be there!), and there is an open call for nominations to the board of the Open Source Hardware Association.

At Mozilla’s Mozfest in October in London, Public Lab has proposed a session on “Open source science: not just for scientists”:

New and ongoing projects with Public Lab tools

Infragram webcam tests continue as part of the Infragram Kickstarter project

Infragram DIY Filter Packs have begun shipping from Portland Oregon as part of the Infragram Kickstarter project.

Public Lab Organizers have compiled a “Give or get help!” list of troubleshooting resources for the hundreds of new Infragram contributors we’ll see in coming weeks and months.

Smartphone spectrometer injection molding samples have returned from ProtoEdge and final plastics decisions are being made as part of the DIY Spectrometry Kit Kickstarter.

Japanese Public Labbers recently took their first balloon mapping photos:


Research Notes Highlights

Californian Public Labbers recently did coastal observations with kite mapping setups in Malibu Lagoon & Surfrider Beach, Malibu, CA

Chris Fastie and others have been exploring techniques for post-processing white balance on multispectral plant photographs.

Contributor bc512 from Australia discusses infrared vineyard monitoring with quadcopters

Public Lab in the media this week

Liz Barry, Public Lab, and partners were featured in a short piece in the New Yorker this week on p.22, which covered the urban agriculture pole photography they are doing in NYC.

2013_08_26_p323.jpg GetImage.jpeg

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Public Lab Community Newsletter August 18, 2013

by gonzoearth | about 7 years ago | 0 | 0

This newsletter includes some notes on the growth of with some stats on the visitors to the site. Lots of great research related to outdoor August activities getting posted online. We got your hornworms and goat brush control covered in the action from this last week.


Note on Public Lab community growth on the web:

Upcoming Events

Boston-area event at Tidmarsh Farms, more info coming soon at - Tidmarsh Farms is a 577 acre cranberry bog of which 250 acres are currently undergoing restoration to natural wetland. IR balloon mapping will help researchers from UMass Boston and the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration identify natural peat springs that will inform the design of new stream channels to produce a self-sustaining wetland ecosystem.

The Open Hardware Summit is coming to MIT on September 6th. User gbathree put up a research note about preparing for the event:

New and ongoing projects with Public Lab tools expands client-side image processing to include a new simple mathematical language for compositing images:

Some great imagery on goat-powered brush control for fire prevention:

Expanding the spectra archive at with import from NIST and WebMineral:

The Trapa Natans invasive species mapping continues with these notes on detecting and classifying the map data:

Hornworms! An interesting tale on imaging unwanted caterpillars in the garden. Potentially startling animated GIF included:

Research Notes Highlights

A new wood and metal DIY picuvet design:

Notes from building a larger kite camera housing for a video camera:

Trying out smartphone wind meter apps and accessories:

White balancing a Canon camera for Infragram photography:

Public Lab in the media this week Over 3000 visitors from From late July, only for UK viewers:

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Public Lab Community Newsletter August 11, 2013

by gonzoearth | about 7 years ago | 0 | 0

Fall 2013 Barnraising We are happy to announce that this year's Barnraising theme is Education! You are invited to join the Public Lab community in person as we gather October 4-6 for the third annual Barnraising in Cocodrie, Louisiana. png_base6464523d3b200f336d.png Shown above: Gulf research station LUMCON hosts the Barnraising. In the background, a Barnstar.

What is a Public Lab barn raising, you ask? This is the closest thing we have to a Public Lab conference -- but with an emphasis on "doing stuff together" rather than just presenting/talking. In the spirit of bringing a community together to collectively raise a structure such as a barn, Public Lab comes together to develop tools, toolkits, supporting materials such as guides and tutorials, test the tools and develop new research directions and projects. Participants represent a wide range of interests from technologists and designers to social scientists and community organizers. Find more information here:, including a fantastic video of our 2012 Barnraising. Getting started: Join the discussion on the Barn Raising mailing list: We are exploring the dimensions of the Education theme, what sessions will be important to include, and who wants to present which sessions. There is no charge to attend the conference, please note the cost of lodging at LUMCON is $20/night. RSVP here. (direct link: Oh, and did I mention we go boating and kite flying every afternoon? ;) We aim to make this event accessible to new members and familiar voices alike, please let us know if we can answer any further questions or help you plan for your trip.


Upcoming Events

  • The Gowanus Canal Conservancy, Public Lab, and GLAM are having a stitching Party at 61 Local in Brooklyn, on Monday August 12 at 7:00pm.

  • Public Lab will be at Maker Faire NYC in September; stay tuned for details and get in touch ( if you’d like to help run our booth, or just say hi!

New and ongoing projects with Public Lab tools

  • website is open for business! Still has some rough edges but it looks great and processes larger images now:

  • Several Public Lab organizers have been working with NASA Develop to investigate oil refinery emissions by taking spectra of stack flares with the Public Lab Spectrometer. This is a challenging task which will require more experimentation to learn how to point the spectrometer at a distant flame, capture spectra from a faint source, and separate the background glow from the spectral emission peaks of sulfur, nitrogen compounds, and organic carbons.

  • Chris Fastie has posted two more notes about the July 22 WATERCHESTNUT event in Amherst, MA. These describe continued efforts to use the multispectral aerial photos to identify the invasive aquatic Waterchestnut (Trapa natans). All WATERCHESTNUT notes can be seen here. Chris would also like to scold Dan and Jake, the organizer and host of WATERCHESTNUT, for not yet posting any research notes from the event as they promised to do! Also, did anyone get any photos of the big purple balloon being flown from the canoe? Please share!

  • Jeff Warren has continued the search for small cameras that can become the Infragram Kickstarter reward cameras. Most inexpensive webcams have CMOS sensors with a particular type of Bayer filter that allow near infrared light to contaminate the blue channel, which must be rather pure visible light to make good Infragram photos. Some small CMOS cameras do not have this problem, so Jeff is confident that he will find some good candidates soon.

Research Notes Highlights

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