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. 

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