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

HACKcampUK: New project supported by The Royal Academy of Engineering


We're delighted to be collaborating with Edge Hill University, Wigan STEAM and Mako Create on a new Royal Academy of Engineering funded project giving children the opportunity to design the future and protect the planet with careers in engineering.

Schoolchildren across the North of England will soon be able to experience the future with a series of pop up events hosted by engineering professionals as part of a Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious Project.

HACKcampUK is an innovative and exciting project designed to connect children to careers in engineering and to play a part in shaping change in a rapidly evolving world. The project is being delivered as part of the This Is Engineering programme and is designed to inspire the next generation of innovators, inventors and problem solvers.

The events will include opportunities for children aged 10 – 14, and any interested adults working with children, to experience engineering during hand on workshops hosted by engineers working in environmental, computing, chemical, civil, structural and medical engineering.

For more details click here and get in touch about proposed activities by emailing us at