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Building miniature kites at a family science night

by SuziT9 | over 1 year ago | 4 | 5

On March 1, 2018, several members of our Montana State University team (Academic Technology and Outreach)

shared a hands-on engineering activity with hundreds of kids and adults at MSU's annual Family Science Night on March 1.

We are all part of the NASA AEROKATS and ROVERs Education Network (AREN), and our goal was to engage and excite kids of all ages by helping them build miniature kites (see supplies, equipment and observations below). AREN is a program supported by NASA Science Mission Directorate Science Education that designs and uses low-cost instrumented systems for in-situ and remotely sensed Earth observations including kite-based "AEROKATS" and remotely controlled aquatic and land-based "ROVERS."

In the morning, the event hosted 150 fifth graders from local Title 1 schools (high percentage of free and reduced lunch). The evening saw 385 members of the community - mainly families with children, some as young as 2 or 3 years old.

To say it was controlled chaos is putting it mildly!

At our AREN station, kids (and sometimes their parents) used tissue paper, mylar, silk thread and 20-inch straws to build one of two different miniature kites based on the excellent designs and resources of Glenn Davison. AREN team members assisted with the construction process while sharing an overview of the NASA AREN project and words of encouragement for our country's future scientists and engineers. The miniature kites featured blue and gold materials to celebrate Montana State University's 125th birthday.

Overall, kids and adults really enjoyed this activity, and -- if they followed the instructions -- the kites really flew!

Below are the materials and equipment we used, preparation, observations and possible extensions.



* Tissue paper (Experimented with copy paper and plastic tablecloths; tissue worked best)

* Mylar (roll of 24" x 8 feet) (Experimented with audio cassette tape; mylar worked best)

* Silk thread

* 20" straws (bought in packs of 200 for about $20 on Amazon)


* Tape dispensers (many)

* Scissors (several)

image description


* Signs /banners publicizing the activity/project

* Signs or laminated sheets with step-by-step instructions (This was really helpful because we had so many kids at once and one-on-one help was not possible)

* Cardboard template(s) if kids will be cutting their own tissue paper (We pre-cut the tissue)

* Large surface area for construction plus chairs


* Pre-cut tissue paper for Rokkoku and Koren Fighter Kite designs (or kids can do it themselves if you have more time and less chaos)

* Pre-cut gold mylar tails (The mylar is fairly expensive and a bit hard to cut so allow enough time. Best if kids don't do it)

* Marked off 18-inch spans with painter's tape on table (for thread) (Kids tended to cut the thread way too long, thinking longer is better)

image description


* Kids under about fifth grade require parent's help

* Kids (and parents) want to experiment with the design ("be creative"), but those kites do not fly. Need a gentle way of telling people to follow the instructions

* "Being creative" can also use up your materials supply

* Kids will try to take a big straw (because they're fun) without making a kite

* Need to find the balance between "helping" and "doing it for them."

Possible extensions

* Make a list of questions we as facilitators could ask (either orally or on a sign) that encourage kids to think about the design process

* If lots of time and small group, could experiment with various designs before "unveiling" the field-tested design that really flies.

For more information, feel free to contact me! It was super fun and educational, too.

Suzi Taylor -

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kite-mapping education nasa k-12

Call for Summer of Code 2018 proposals!

by warren | over 1 year ago | 17 | 11

Update! See this post for our accepted proposals. Thanks everyone!

RGSoC and GSoC

We're part of two different summer fellowship programs this year, Rails Girls Summer of Code (#RGSoC) and Google Summer of Code (#GSoC) -- both recruit software contributors to work on open source projects.

We've done GSoC for a few years now, and are really excited to be part of RGSoC for a second year. They write:

All people with non-binary gender identities or who identify as women (transgender or cisgender) are welcome to apply.

Learn more about the program and get involved! They are also seeking coaches to help teams out over the course of the summer -- learn more about coaching here.

So, we're asking students from both programs to start posting their proposals for comment, here. Read on!


RGSoC's application deadline is the 28th of February. GSoC's is March 27th.

Read proposal ideas

Once you've gotten a bit familiar with our project (see our welcome page here), the first step is to look over our ideas page, which you can find here.

Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below, or to join our chat channel at https://publiclab/chat

Our welcoming page will help you understand how we collaborate, and we'll be there to help you take your first step. And try tackling a first-timers-only issue, to get an idea of how to become a contributor!

Please ask questions! We're very friendly and we love welcoming new people into our community.

Post a proposal for comment

Once you've read through some of these ideas and become a bit more familiar with our projects, it's time to post a proposal of your own.

You don't need to have a complete or even concrete idea -- share your thoughts early and we'll help you refine your proposal, and help you choose something that's the right difficulty level as well as being something our project really needs.

We've created a template for you to post a proposal here. Click this button to begin:

Start drafting a proposal

Note: RGSoC's official application is directly to the RGSoC organization, through their website. But we would like all RGSoC applicants to post a proposal here as well, because:

  • we will review proposals here in looking over applications and indicating our preferences to to RGSoC folks leading up to Feb 28th
  • we think it's great to have a dialogue with teams
  • we'd like to know specifically about your planning process in tackling a project or set of projects
  • we're friendly!

Read other proposals

Before or after you post your own draft, read through others' listed below. Your best comments and input may come from other applicants!


Title Author Updated Likes
GSoc Proposal: OAuth & Upgrade to Bootstrap 4 @bansal_sidharth2996 2 months ago
GSOC-18 Email notification overhaul. @vidit 10 months ago
GSoC Proposal: Draft Feature & Email Integration Project @gauravano 11 months ago
GSoC proposal: Computer Vision enhancements for Raspberry Pi based Public Lab Science Projects @MaggPi about 1 year ago
RGSoC: v2 API development @milaaraujo about 1 year ago
GSoC proposal: Social Media Integration and Leaflet-Layers Library . @sagarpreet about 1 year ago
RGSoC proposal: Upgrade to Rails 5 @meghana-07 about 1 year ago
GSoC proposal: v2 API development @rishabh07 about 1 year ago
GSoC proposal: Calendar Events and Graphs Integration @500swapnil about 1 year ago
GSoC Proposal: v2 API development and third party app integrations @sukhbir about 1 year ago
GSoC proposal: Upgrade to Rails 5 @souravirus over 1 year ago
GSoC proposal: Leaflet Blurred Location Part 2 @mridulnagpal over 1 year ago
GSoC proposal: Email integration Project @namangupta over 1 year ago
GSoC proposal: Card UI/UX Implementation v2 & Bootstrap 4 Upgradation @amitsin6h over 1 year ago
GSoC proposal: Image-Sequencer v2 : Processing on steroids @tech4gt over 1 year ago
GSoC proposal: v2 API development | Grape | Swagger Specification @Raounak over 1 year ago
RGSoC proposal: Entrepreneurial Network And Enhanced UX @SrishtyMittal over 1 year ago
SoC proposal:RGSOC PROPOSAL: Upgrade to Rails 5.1.5 @stella over 1 year ago
RGSoC proposal: Upgrade to Rails 5 @cess over 1 year ago
RGSoC proposal: Rich Editor Extras @soniya2903 over 1 year ago
RGSoC proposal : Pollution tracker @evjam over 1 year ago
SoC proposal: Pollution analysis on google maps @sid2111995 over 1 year ago
GSoC proposal: Email integration project @vishesh over 1 year ago
Show more


Ask a question  or help answer future questions on this topic

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The discovery of the Clotilda and the community 'still fighting'

by stevie | over 1 year ago | 4 | 2

Lead photo by Ben Raines | More photos can be found here.

This week, something really exciting happened for our partners in Africatown, Alabama. The historic slave ship the Clotilda was reported discovered in Mobile Bay (also see this piece by Ben Raines in Alabama Local News). For those who have been following the posts and projects of MEJAC and Africatown (also see Bridge the Gulf and MEJAC), you will have heard of the Clotilda before. It's known as the "Last Known Slave Ship in U.S."

However, the dark history of the Clotilda does not end the story of injustice brought to those the ship carried below its wood and iron deck. Today's piece in the Guardian "'Still fighting': Africatown, site of last US slave shipment, sues over pollution" highlights many of these struggles, and what Africatown residents are doing about them:

"Today, this mostly black, low-income community has more than just a unique history as an against-the-odds bolthole of black independence in the Reconstruction south. Residents say they also have a serious industrial pollution and public health problem, and a group of about 1,200 have launched a lawsuit against the owners of a now-shuttered paper plant that was built in 1928 on land that was then owned by A Meaher Jr.
“People born after 1945 seem to be dying before the age of 65,” said Womack, who grew up during the mid-century heydey of the International Paper plant that drew thousands of workers here but also, according to residents, spewed ash across the town."

MEJAC President, Ramsey Sprague, sums it up:

"The news of the Clotilda slave ship discovery is incredible, but so is the resolve of Africatown residents fighting for Environmental Justice today! International Paper may have been a keystone economic driver for Mobile for most of the 20th century, but that does not mean it should have been given immunity from compliance with federal law. No one should be able to poison with impunity. Mobile must deal with its legacy of environmental racism...It's amazing that Africatown’s dioxin/furan contamination lawsuit against International Paper and the formation of CHESS is finally getting attention after a year of work - in a UK media outlet no less. Local media, where are y’all?"

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gulf-coast mobile blog environmental-justice

MapKnitter update: very high resolution mapping

by warren | over 1 year ago | 2 | 4

For the first time in a while, we've updated -- after the release of Leaflet.DistortableImage v0.1.3 -- incorporating new improvements from @justinmanley's Leaflet.toolbar project, as well as some key changes to the image distortion (rubber sheeting) interface. Thanks to @icarito for the help!

The biggest change, however, is that, due to supporting Leaflet v1.0, we now support very high zoom levels in MapKnitter -- a long-requested feature we could never get working under older versions of Leaflet. You can now zoom well past the resolution of the reference map, which will just stretch to fit.

This means you can do really really high resolution maps -- like gardens, for example. In the example above, the left image shows a single van parking space at a YMCA near where I used to live, while the right image shows the highest zoom level available under the old version of MapKnitter -- the maximum zoom of the reference map. It just stretches, but this is really key for very small mapmaking!

Here's another example of a map by @radikaltech that I hope will be able to use this higher-zoom system! Please tell me if it helps!

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balloon-mapping kite-mapping mapknitter aerial-photography

A Victory for Clean Water: Citizen Science Data Leads to Change by Andy Hrycyna

by gilbert | over 1 year ago | 4 | 1

A Victory for Clean Water: Citizen Science Data Leads to Change

June 1, 2017

image description

For years, the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) and its volunteers have helped to document water pollution problems in the Town of Belmont. This week, that hard work paid off.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued an Administrative Order on Consent with the Town of Belmont over years of water quality damages. Over the next five years the town has agreed to make a significant investment in repairs to its storm water system, which is discharging pollutants, including human sewage, into waters of the Mystic River watershed. We congratulate Belmont on their commitment to improve water quality to tributaries to Alewife Brook.

This is a success story for citizen science and for non-profit environmental collaboration with government agencies. Data acquired by MyRWA volunteers and shared with EPA was key to making progress. This has been a group effort---from the dozens of volunteer monitors who go out each month to collect samples, to the tireless work of others like Roger Frymire, who spent countless hours finding sources of pollution in the Alewife Brook area.

Since 2000, volunteers through the MyRWA's Baseline Monitoring Program have generated water quality data that is shared with state and federal agencies. Each year the EPA in conjunction with MyRWA issues a water quality report card for the Mystic River watershed.

The 2015 water quality report card for the Belmont area tells the story: Alewife Brook earned a D grade with 50% compliance with boating and swimming standards for bacteria; Little River a D- grade at 44% compliance; and Winn's Brook an F grade at 33% compliance.

One powerful aspect of the Baseline Monitoring Program is that it is poised to document success as well as problems. As infrastructure repairs are made in Belmont, we fully expect these grades to improve. We look forward to documenting and celebrating water quality improvements to Alewife Brook, Little River, Winn's Brook, Wellington Brook---and the Mystic River itself---over the next five years!

Congratulations and thanks to everyone who continues to work with us for protecting clean water.

EPA Water Quality Grades 2014-2016


2014 2015 2016

Mystic River B+ A- A-

Alewife Brook D D D+

Little River D- D- D

Winn's Brook F F D-

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citizen-science water-quality blog alewife-brook

Economist Article: "Do-it-yourself science is taking off"

by stevie | over 1 year ago | 1 | 2

Public Lab and some DIY science friends (Hey @maxliboiron, @eymund, @shannon and @warren !) were recently featured in a piece in The Economist. Check out the article entitled "Do-it-yourself science is taking off."

Happy New Year to all, and a special welcome to everyone who has found Public Lab and DIY science projects through The Economist piece!

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