Thursday, October 23, 2014

Balloon Aerial Mapping BRIEF WORKSHOP


A NEW Community Mapping Approach : Balloon Mapping
DATE/TIME: 10/29/14 - 0800 
LOCATION:  Evans Hall turnout in Loma Linda University off of Anderson
24785, Stewart St. Loma Linda, CA 92354
Meet by the Loma Linda University sign in the grass. My grey truck will be nearby.

Balloon (and Kite) photography is a participatory technique used to acquire aerial photographs and qualitative data from participants. It is a fun outdoor activity that takes a little planning and produces a lot of images. It has been used to document contamination from the BP oil spill, neighborhood environmental health issues, urban development issues and many other topics.  The unique thing about balloon mapping is that it requires a team approach and is therefore a qualitative method. Researchers can acquire lots of relevant information from the planning and organizing phase; these facilitate conversations, explanations and justifications for why you would want to photograph sometime from the sky. The most important component of this method is that it is participatory and it generates many different types of data that can be used to advocate for communities.

This first workshop is setup to simply introduce the idea and test fly a balloon with a camera attached. We will meet at Loma Linda University and then travel to a nearby mapping location that doesn't have a lot of obstacles for the tethered balloon.  Come along if you want to collaborate with us on using this method. We will fly some custom designed Mylar balloons and introduce everyone to the general technique. It's really easy!  Later workshops will take the data and generate maps, fly a drone for aerial photography and explore some other techniques.

8am: Meet on the grass and organize transportation to the mapping site (My truck has 6 seatbelts)
8:15am: Travel to the site and prep the equipment and talk to everybody.
8:30am: Fly the ballon
9am: return to LLU

Contact me with any questions:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Balloon mapping in Peru

We wanted to use a balloon to do aerial mapping rather than a drone. Before the Peru trip we assumed that a tethered weather balloon would be more sustainable than using a drone for aerial mapping which can include a downward facing camera gimble.

Mario Melgar students at Laguna Chacas with an aerial mapping weather balloon.

PRE-TRIP hypotheses:
My hypotheses of why a balloon would be preferable to using a quadcopter equipped with a downward facing camera:
  • Inexpensive: helium is the largest expense at about $40 for one balloon.
  • Less accident prone and less costly if an accident happens. 
    • If I crash my quad-copter, the cost could be a few hundred dollars. A balloon won't crash and if something happens, the string will break and you have to go hunt for it.  
  • Faster planning. You just need a balloon, camera and helium.
  • The outsider excitement and alarmist perspective may vary:
    • A community response to what we know as a "DRONE" has some fear associated with it. 
    • This perception changes for a group of people walking around with a balloon on a really long string.  
  • It's a participatory approach that any group can successfully complete in an afternoon or early wind free morning. 
  • It integrates well with other participatory approaches.
Two LLU MPH students walking with a windblown aerial mapping balloon. 
POST-TRIP Perspectives:
Our trip to the rural Laguna Chacas allowed us to work with local high school students and local college students with a participatory approach where we used qualitative methods such as problem trees, free listing, community mapping, biodiversity monitoring.  The community balloon mapping integrated well with the community mapping and transect walks.

Here are some shots of the Laguna Chacas mapping process:
All of us trying out the weather balloon

A possible cause for eutrophication of Laguna Chacas. This may contribute more nutrients then the fish farms. 
Some community mapping at the high school before the balloon mapping.

I'll update this topic as we develop some more trips and the actual map pictures. Currently I have a weather balloon outing planned for some community mapping around S. Cal.

I didn't get a chance to go to the MP this year, but there was a nice billboard at the Airport...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Still room for more: Sanitation-Access Research.

In the last few years there has been an upswing of infection control research within the context of US healthcare. The APIC and other groups are starting to accumulate an enviable amount of fun environmental microbiology field based studies. Scientists are evaluating contamination and health risk of curtains, hands, linens, gowns, tap water and anything else that you can find in a US hospital. My favorite are the copper hand washing sinks.  Those are deluxe!

The biggest source of global fecal contamination still appears to be largely unstudied. A recent editorial in Lancet Global Health discusses this. Stephen Luby states that we still do not have enough data to generate sufficient evidence about the relationship between sanitation and health. He says that this is true because of the wide variety of pathogens, climate, environments, cultures and individual behaviors.  The Luby PDF is here.  More research is certainly complicated but also necessary. I find this promising.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A green grocery bag ban?

Here is a report that summarizes the reusable grocery bag ban trend that is hitting the US for the past 4 years. The article is written by the reason foundation, a libertarian institute in California. The article summarizes many points developed by a lifecycle assessment on plastic bags, a report developed by the UK's environment agency.

That lifecycle assessment has many scientifically valid studies that the average grocery shopper never encounters. The Reason Foundation's report summarizes many of the findings.  

Here is a useful table that details most of the bags available for users.  If I had to choose, I would use the cotton bags simply because they are washable, bleach-able and easy to disinfect.  All the others don't hold up well in the Washing machine. There is fabric technology that integrates disinfectants for infection control scenarios. That would also be an interesting choice. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My IRIS crash in Peru

So I had a crash on my 3dr IRIS in Peru and the details are here.
Here are some of the photos from the timelapse series.

Everything going normal and the IRIS is hovering

Uh oh..loiter doesn't work, I'll try altitude hold...
 Oh no, those don't work..I'll try to get it back in stabilize...
 Maybe RTL...nope...I'll try fly mission...maybe it will go back to California....Stabilize isn't working and it has now started on its fly away...
Still no response...

Click on the picture below you and you can see me starting to run in an attempt to grab the up-and-coming wreckage before someone else does. It is not easy to run/walk through a sewage wetland at 12,500 feet.

Add caption

LUCK #1 - Thankfully it crashed into a bush in a little lake side park. The Mobius camera was in good condition.
LUCK #2 - A nice man saw it and stood next to it for a while and then handed it to me when he saw me running over.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Update on Air Sensors

In a previous blog post, I discussed some ideas on open hardware air sensor designs that could work well for the Environmental Justice community in the Eastern Coachella Valley (ECV). After some months of tinkering, talking and planning,  I realize that that the technology development is probably only about 30% of the innovation required for this type of air monitoring citizen project.

I'll approach this from the end result and talk about goals and objectives first. A reasonable goal would include the end health outcome while also hypothesizing the method for how that objective will be achieved. Here are some examples from similar star grants:

  1. By improving indoor air quality  (IAQ) and reducing environmental asthma triggers this study intends to reduce  asthma symptoms related to tribal home-&-school childhood exposures. 
  2. Some don't list a clear goal on the project description page but have hypothesis and an approach such as this one on water and this one on toxicology. It seems that a clear goal that follows the rules of a good pre 2010 NIH application goal is not necessary here. 
  3. Others have objectives and hypotheses listed like this children's Environmental health Study

Areas for Hypothesis development  
Given all of that, our approach will test some social hypotheses regarding community engagement, community uptake of a sensor method and community participation all the way through to a reliable dataset from a network of sensors.  Most of our project hypotheses will drive these activities and a model engagement strategy will be published from this.

Policy Development? 
The second phase of the approach will focus on the policy development and interpretation from the network data. Our hypothesis is that data from a network of community based sensors can be used for state and federal level environmental health policy and legislative development.

Technical design of sensors? 
Secondary to the above approach is the technical design and function of the sensors themselves. I'm keeping that tech development section as secondary; our project will focus on implementing the "post production" or "post-DIY proven" options.AQI link on this SCAQMD site.  We will devote the first 2 months to this as our project success will depend on our first phase of hacking, field testing and polishing such as this Dustduino, the air quality egg or the aircasting sensor.
The options we will work with should be primarily open hardware but should also be previously developed solutions. We don't want to develop something from scratch but we need sensors that can reproduce an air quality index such as the one listed in the

The USEPA Village Green Project? Great project for where it is, but too vulnerable for the sometimes difficult environment in the ECV.  We want community host homes and centers and not publicly accessible technology to be sandblasted, vandalize or steal.
Click to read about TTinvent
Community Training?A more important tech consideration is the community training portion. This is also a key component because this is when the ECV youth and therefore the ECV community is first involved. One hypotheses is that a constructionist teaching model can be used to first engage community youth.  This is currently used with the contractor TTinvent. The company focuses on challenging grades 4-11 youth at schools to develop technology in an intense weeklong training. After the training, the students are able to not only program and code for arduino sensors, but also use 3D printers and develop functioning devices.  Its an impressive strategy for community engagement and learning.

After the pilot project is implemented in the ECV, we will focus on communities around the railyard in San Bernarduino.

There are roughly six categories of challenges to achieve

  1. Scaling up and troubleshooting the air quality sensors for successful use in a community
  2. Training students and parents on the technology and developing a published training curriculum using a constructionist teaching method
  3. Engaging the community to reliably own, host and maintain the sensor network.
  4. This involves: 
    1. A desirable spread of sensors to cover all areas of concern by the EJ taskforce
    2. A Sustainable Sensor placement with wifi access, protected from environmental and vandalism damage. 
    3. Sustainable real-time data uploads from the sensor to a reliable data network with meaningful results
  5. A method to upload the data to a central server that can be used by the community to:
    1. Obtain real time reliable information 
    2. archived for later analysis
    3. Real time interpretation for the public
    4. Real time automated GIS maps of contaminant levels
  6. Policy development on areas of concern for environmental health issues through communication with community members and the area Environmental Justice Advocacy group.
Maker Space? 
We should include a section on a permanent "makerSpace" "FabLab" in the ECV. This could be in the high school but more appropriately in a community center such as PUCDC's San Juan and Bea Main community center located in the hub of the ECV EJ community. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dust Devils

In Ethiopia the Oromo of Gimbie say that the Devil is in the middle of a dust devil and will possess you if it passes over you. There are a few more myths of dust devils here on the wikipedia page. Dust Devils are one of the top ten reasons why I love the desert. These mini-tornadoes are spooky, very common, yet not quite acknowledged in modern society. Freeway drivers don't notice them and weather stations don't report them. How can we not acknowledge a 500 foot tall genie that appears in the desert? They are a striking feature of the American desert that increase in frequency as human development progresses. I see them often during drought conditions, dry agricultural fields, or development projects that have gone bankrupt. My friend Jaime Lopez was driving around the eastern Coachella city limits and came across this one. That brave tractor driver was going where no tractor driver has gone before...