Homebrew Sensing Project

The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science

Date Awarded
Grant Period
01/14/14 to 08/13/15
Focus Area
Media Innovation
Knight News Challenge

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Grantee Contact

  • Boston, MA

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To build Homebrew Sensing Project, a set of low-cost hardware and free software tools community members can use to measure local health data, such as air and water quality.

Communities are increasingly concerned about the array of hazardous chemicals that surrounds us - from formaldehyde in building materials to fumes from industrial sites - and their long and short term health impacts. To address this problem, the Public Laboratory wants to provide more low-cost chemical analysis tools, including simple devices that can be plugged into smartphones and laptops, so residents can measure the effects themselves instead of relying on costly labs. With its community of over 3,500 active members, Public Lab raised $110,000 in 2012 through Kickstarter to use DIY spectrometry tools to identify petroleum in sediments in coastal Louisiana and monitor emissions from oil refineries, among other projects. Challenge funding will allow the lab’s Homebrew Sensing Project to not only expand but improve its hardware, software and interface with citizens to collect data that empowers communities.

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Project Team

Jeffrey Warren

The creator of GrassrootsMapping.org and co-founder and Research Director for the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, Jeff designs mapping and civic science tools and professionally flies balloons and kites. Notable software he has created include the vector-mapping framework Cartagen and orthorectification tool MapKnitter. He is a fellow at MIT's Center for Civic Media and an advocate of open source software, hardware, and data. He co-founded Vestal Design, a graphic/interaction design firm in 2004, and directed the Cut&Paste Labs project, a year-long series of workshops on open-source tools and web design in 2006-7 with Lima designer Diego Rotalde.

Jeff holds an MS from MIT and a BA in Architecture from Yale University, and spent much of that time working with artist/technologist Natalie Jeremijenko, building robotic dogs and stuff. To find out more, visit Unterbahn.com.

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