Sense and Sense Air-bility

We jumped at our invite to present successes and lessons learnt from Sense and Sense Air-bility at Wuthering Bytes last month. The festival has an amazing programme of activities and events bringing together an open-source community filled with ideas, new collaborators and support, so it was great to talk with maker friends old and new.

Read more about Wuthering Bytes from the festival website or this great write up from Laura James, compére on the Friday. And watch out for the next project on the map from Lighthouse School in Leeds, shaping learning opportunities with the new hardware sponsored by the festival.

Bramley Community Weather Stations and Air Quality Monitoring

This community-led project has now adopted the name ‘Bramley Weather Stations’ after first activities sparked ideas about how intergenerational groups can work together to improve air quality.

microbit temp and humidity monitoring

A series of imaginative and hands-on digital workshops launched with the first stations built and collecting data on the hottest day of the year!

The programme will continue over the coming months and explore the quality of air in Bramley and respond to concerns from local residents and groups.

More air quality monitoring projects will be built and deployed around the community with individuals, youth, adult and local Scout groups all learning new skills and gaining a deeper understanding about how they can address environmental concerns together.

map 1 bramley

Part of the programme will focus on sharing ideas and data to make better informed decisions, and that's an introduction to data science in an accessible and fun way for everyone.

You'll see these examples, from a mapping and data visualisation activity, showing routes taken with air quality sensor projects around Bramley Community Centre and a supplementary CSV file has all of the raw data.

What's brilliant about this example is the age of the digital makers as young cubs and scouts from the local group. They were able to interrogate their own data and tell their own story about changes in air quality as they walked away from the centre and towards the road. Moreover, they could consider and discuss the impact of action and choices made as a result of their findings with a group of adults.

bramley 2 map

The programme is multifaceted and a powerful insight into how equipping a community with the tools, knowledge and skills needed to make their own changes can impact on a wider scale.

We'll share updates, events and news throughout the summer and in the meantime the ‘Bramley Weather Stations’ group are collaborating with meet-ups, workshops and their own online collaboration space.

jaffa cake box casing for digital project

Some of the resources and inspiration from the first making day to create new stations and understand this climate emergency that's spoken about at school, around the community and across the city.

resources from bramley launch

national lottery community fund logo The Bramley Weather Station programme of activities and change is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.

Air Your Views: Weaving Data Stories

“We may say most aptly that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.” Ada Lovelace.

Just as Ada Lovelace spoke about weaving patterns in the nineteenth century, the children at Hollinsclough Academy took computing inspiration from her again today to weave their own data stories about air quality in C21st.

children weaving aq data 4

As part of our Internet of Curious Things programme of activities funded by the IET and iMechE, every child from the age of 5 years up actively contributed to physical computing projects, science poetry and outdoor STEM walks to collect data about particulate matter.

Groups explored the algorithms needed to control each sensor project and used the environment around the school grounds to test out their hypothesise. Using pupil voice as a mechanism to share their findings to a wider audience, we also collaborated with local artist Cora Glasser to express data as an outdoor artform.

children hands nicholas eyes sensor

Initially introduced to some of the issues about air pollution through the brilliant Nicholas Eyes book, children were challenged to imagine and invent their own magic powers to improve the quality of air that we breathe.

children collaborating around a table with air quality sensor project

children holding outdoor aq sensor

Visit the school this week and you'll be able to view the children's 'Data Sculpture Park' with your own eyes.

No magic needed to appreciate their efforts of computational thinking and using sensors to collect and analyse data. Ask them to explain their thinking and talk about how they made decisions about constructing the art and colour based on data.

children weaving aq data 2

children weaving aq data 3

weaving project visualisation aq

weaving project visualisation aq2

Inspiring Young Scientists in Salford with a new collaboration - 'Made to Measure'

Made to Measure: How can we use data to improve the air that we breathe?

We're delighted to announce that we'll be collaborating with teachers and children at St Mark's CE Primary in Salford as part of a new programme led by The Royal Society.

Made to Measure is a multifaceted project, aiming to empower every child at St Mark's to develop computational thinking skills and invent with smart sensors to create a more connected and healthy world.

The emphasis will be on building and coding physical computing projects to improve the air that we breathe, linking local problem-finding around Salford to the UN's’ Sustainable Development Goals, giving purpose and real world relevance to children's learning.

This will be a school-wide project over the next academic year with linked age-appropriate activities threaded through the environmental theme of air quality and understanding pollution, culminating in a showcase event where different outcomes are shared by the children.

embroidery materials including fabric, needles and thread

The school's team of digital leaders will support peer-to-peer learning and promote pupil voice as a powerful way to address climate emergency and action we can all take to make a difference.

Scientific investigations will cover these main areas:

  1. Consideration of algorithmic design
  2. How can we make the invisible visible?
  3. How to apply computational thinking

Children will collect and analyse their data collections before sharing findings and messages to the wider community.

Creative outcomes with data visualisation will include textile projects and perhaps intergenerational activities when the children will learn from others to match analogue embroidery techniques to data science.

Watch out for more news about what the children make to share what they've measured.

How can we use data to improve the air that we breathe?

Apply now! Join us to build a Community Network of Air Quality Sensors in Leeds.

Singing Canaries: Pupil Voice in a Climate Emergency


It's over 30 years since canary birds where replaced by hand-held digital devices to detect harmful gases, but the cautionary metaphor of 'a canary in a coal mine' is still relevant today according to a latest project driven through pupil voice.

The use of caged birds, to alert miners to the invisible dangers of gases such as carbon monoxide, has been a theme for discussion with children about the effects of air pollution today. That's led them to investigating the impact on humans and nature as cities around the UK declare climate emergencies, and the group has created their own caged bird to convey thoughts about action.

Event-driven programming

  1. Create a flock of pom-pom birds
  2. Design an algorithm to drive the servos 180 degrees and turn the canary on the perch

At which level of PM2.5 or PM10 will the canary move on its perch to signal danger?

pom pom canary

Data quandary

Using particulate matter data collected from one of their own projects, the children looked at guidelines from DEFRA, the WHO and local council to learn more about targets and levels.

What caused confusion for some of the group was to see target levels of air quality still with an amount of pollution above zero.

What level would you suggest starts being a danger to our health?

collage of craft canary birds

Algorithmic design

What's emerged is a real and wicked problem to solve and be communicated through this data storytelling project.

The immediate problem is to finalise the script with a number that is the level of pollution that will trigger the canary to twist on the perch in the cage. Once that's decided, they'll share their work through GitHub. screenshot github air quality code

Pupil voice

  • Are we now the modern canaries in a polluted world?
  • Do we fully understand the impact of pollution on our own health?
  • What steps can we ALL take to improve the air that we breathe?

Maker box:

  • Triot board
  • Particulate matter sensors
  • GPS module
  • 180 degrees servo motors

Making sense of air quality in Roundhay Park: Workshop and science walk for families during #LeedsDigi19

The Digital Festival was a perfect opportunity to announce our moonshot of 350 air quality projects on a crowd sourced map during 2019, adding these new projects to earlier activities and nudging towards our target.

moonshot ambition of 350 air quality projects on a crowd sourced map in 2019

The workshop for families during Leeds Digital Festival was focused around teams exploring some of the science behind air quality and programming their own air quality monitoring device to test during a walk in Roundhay Park.

It was also a chance to hear about pollution in the world today through the eyes of 'Nicholas and his incredible eyesight' - a great book from Sotirios Papathanasiou.

family working around laptop

The aim of the event was a hands-on and active introduction to air quality and the internet of things for everyone, sharing current activities and monitoring programmes across the city region. The DEFRA map below showing 3 air quality monitoring stations in Leeds was of particular interest, raising questions and discussion about how more community readings can support individual decision making about healthier walks to school and work.

defra map showing 3 air quality monitoring stations in leeds

There's another difference as a programmer with our Internet of Curious Things workshops, and that's giving digital makers themselves a choice of algorithmic design.

Unlike the DEFRA monitoring stations that take a reading every hour, our families wanted to analyse more frequent measures of PM2.5 and PM10 in the air around them as they walked around the park. Final scripts included the trigger to collect and save data every 10 seconds.

2 girls coding air quality project around a laptop

The teams constructed and programmed an outdoor air quality monitoring device and put the sensors through their digital paces around the park. Once back at the Education Centre, data science became the focus as families analysed the data collected and started to think about what it means and how it can help to inform changes to improve health and wellbeing.

family 2 working around laptop

We explored the different measures of air quality, including particulate matter and nitrogen oxide, alongside digital tools such as GPS to make more sense and changes about the quality of air that we breathe.

sensor and iot device

Tech list:

  1. GPS sensor available from Farnell
  2. Sensors attached to a TRIOT board but you could use a Raspberry Pi
  3. ]GitHub account for the Foundation for Digital Creativity]( has the files used for air quality.
  4. Download Mu Editor

Wearables on the move: Learning walks to improve health and the quality of air that we breathe

Claire's university rucksack has generated a bit of interest this academic year, but it's the projects that it's been holding since Christmas that we're ready to share.

Air quality sensors added to the Internet of Curious Things learning programme have added another dimension to real world relevance and linking to local and global problems.

Our workshop for families during the Leeds Digital Festival was a chance for everyone to participate in building digital projects with an introduction to data science as we mapped the location information and level of particulate matter after a walk in the park. Groups used the TRIOT board to collect data and share through Open Maps, showing different routes from another activity with Moortown Living Streets and their mapping of particulate matter below:

collage of air quality monitoring around Moortown in leeds

map of moortown with air quality tracking

However mapping healthier routes to campus, and evidencing changes in data from switching to off-road routes, has been part of another on-going wellbeing project. When data privacy with GPS tracking got personal, we looked towards another application to view live air quality data instantly on a wearable device.

wearable device collecting air quality data

Working with the Living Streets Moortown team has given another focus to community and school engagement programmes as we've supported their intention to encourage more people to walk to school.

This latest iteration supports decision making on those routes to school to monitor effects of proximity to the road, waiting as a pedestrian for a green light to cross the road or the impact on particulate matter readings if you find yourself close to an idling car.

Like us, they sometimes want to see the latest data at a glance and make a data-driven decision on the move.

Community Data Science: Mapping air quality and making decisions based on health

The Making Sense of Air Quality workshop for families during Leeds Digital Festival included time to explore the data collected with a mapping activity to build a digital story.

outdoor sensor monitoring

Transferring air quality and GPS data, collected on a walk around Roundhay Park, to Open Street Map gave families an opportunity to explore their route and question changes in readings along the way.

child 2 looking at laptop screen showing mapping of air quality data

The GPS tracking is accurate enough to show movements around the playground close to Waterloo Lake and also to trigger conversations around the causes of spikes in particulate matter (PM 2.5 and 10). For some, it seemed like proximity of moving traffic might have been part of that data story, leading to further discussion about the benefits of images alongside future tracking and analysing of collected data.

child 3 looking at laptop screen showing mapping of air quality data

map 2 showing air quality data

We'll share the link to the online map that will be populated with ongoing citizen science projects, but in the meantime you'll be able to identify the route from these 2 images at different scale.

digital project at children's playground

The first algorithm draws a simple red, amber or green dot on the map depending on the data measured, according to DEFRA guidelines and health bandings.

map showing air quality data

Planned workshops in the programme will dig deeper into mapping and machine learning possibilities and give participants the chance to personalise visualisations and notifications.

Tech list:

  1. GPS sensor available from Farnell
  2. Sensors attached to a TRIOT board but you could use a Raspberry Pi
  3. GitHub account for the Foundation for Digital Creativity has the files used for air quality.
  4. Download Mu Editor

Digital making leading to healthy outcomes

We've linked digital making projects in schools, and with community groups, to develop a new citizen science programme specifically focused on improving air quality.

Being a parent, and part of ClientEarth's Clean Air Parents' Network, gave an opportunity recently to share an example of a local project that we've been progressing with Living Streets Moortown.

Great to hear positive feedback from that wider audience at The Houses of Parliament about the significance and capacity for community collected data to drive healthy changes. Also encouraging to meet and have the support of local MP Fabian Hamilton to share the message about the impact of empowering groups through digital making.

Look out for 'Science Walk' an event taking place in Roundhay Park during the Leeds Digital Festival.

We'll share the link for registration in the new year, when teams will join us to build an air quality monitoring station, collect data during an outdoor walk in the park and return to learn more about interpreting those results.

Find out more about the cross-party Parliamentary Reception hosted by Client Earth here.

Further details about our plans with the citizen science project in Leeds can be found in this piece:

headline about air pollution from the yorkshire post