Public Lab Research note

Eclectis: a week of civic science in Amsterdam North

by warren | September 25, 2013 12:56 25 Sep 12:56 | #9372 | #9372

Last week I was invited along with Cindy Regalado by the Waag Society in North Amsterdam, to work with a group of 18 youngsters from the Hyperion Lyceum, a 3-year-old school on the former Shell property near the water. We did an awful lot in 5 days, and I wanted to share some of the work we did during the "Eclectis" project.


We planned a few different activities with the students, but really just played it by ear based on what they were interested in. We were hoping to interest them in questions of contamination on the former Shell site -- large areas of the bordering property were fenced off as "unsafe". We also tried to draw the students (in small groups) into a discussion on who gets to perform science, and what defines a scientist.

By the end of the week we'd also done a bunch of hands-on work, including making mini foldable spectrometers (each student got one) and converting 3 cameras to multispectral Infragram cameras (we started with four, but one didn't make it!). The students were really focused and intent about the conversions and did a great job -- we only had to help out on one camera, and make a small tweak (tightening some screws) on another.



The next morning all the students went outside to try the cameras out in the fields surrounding the building. They took some amazing photographs and we convened in the school's computer lab to process them using the website -- which mostly went well although we did run into some bugs in uploading images. By the end, almost all the students had processed their images, and many had experimented with Infragram Sandbox to try to learn more about their images.

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Brainstorming "Camera Box" Infragram helmets

Because the Waag Society was hosting an "art route" for visitors to walk, and a dinner and talks for Friday, we pitched the idea to the students that we could make cardboard box "helmets" with a hole in the front to stick the camera lens through, and have a kind of immersive "infragram vision". We were inspired by the "3rd person" video helmets by Simon van der Linden and Jorrit Thijn of Monobanda, and the students loved the idea -- a quick prototype (below) and they were saying it felt like "being in another world".


The students built 3 helmets in total, designing them to look sort of robotic or otherworldly -- I especially loved the silver one with antennae.


Art Route

The whole week wound up on Friday with an "Art Route" where students' parents and other visitors toured around the site, visiting our spot and those of the four other artist groups and their students. Our "station" was a combination of kite mapping (see the great photo of the A-Lab below) and using the Infragram helmets in a grassy area. The students led both activities, introducing the tools, techniques, and answering questions from the audience. It was exhausting but great to see the students' expertise and confidence.

Many thanks -- to Cindy, to our fantastic assistants Joran Koster (who's also posted about the event) and Bobby, to our Hyperion teachers Michael and Mary, to Meia Wippoo and Karien Vermeulen from the Waag Society, and especially to our energetic, ambitious, and fun students.

We'll be adding more photos soon -- and you can find additional media at


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Infragram immersion helmets are the best thing ever. Imagine one with multiple cameras: one zoomed in, one with a different filter, two side facing ones. Put some snacks inside and you can stay in there all day.

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