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New documentary: Promise in the Sand

by stevie | over 2 years ago | 0 | 5

Lead photo from Promise in the Sand Facebook page

This week, Wendy Johnson & Jim Tittle of Midwest Pictures, LLC released their new documentary "Promise in the Sand" about frack sand mining in the Driftless region. The 24 minute piece follows the communities still struggling with the economic, environmental, and human health impacts of this arm of the fracking industry. Friends featured in this piece include the Swenson family (@dswenson), and Hank Bochon (referenced in the Community Science Forum: the frac sand issue here) of "Promise in the Sand" is a follow up to Midwest Pictures' first documentary on the frack sand mining issue, "The Price of Sand," that was released in 2013. It also comes on the heals of Dr. Thomas Pearson's recent book, "When the Hills are Gone: Frac Sand Mining and the Struggle for Community."

Watch, Read, Share!

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Introducing the SERC Manual

by AyakoM | over 2 years ago | 1 | 2

The SERC Manual is part of the Public Lab Press, a project to distribute written works from allies and community members and organizations.

To paraphrase William Gibson, "The social emergency is already here, it's just unevenly distributed."

In emergencies like hurricanes and tsunamis, emergency response centers exist to coordinate evacuations or provide services like temporary housing, food, and water. We want you to join us in re-imagining response centers to take on the real and pressing social emergency that we are facing today.

In 2017, Design Studio for Social Intervention created Social Emergency Response Centers (SERCs) to help people understand the moment we're in, from all different perspectives. Since then, over 20 SERCs have happened in 16 months, nationally and internationally.

Co-created with activists, artists and community members, SERCs are temporary, pop-up spaces that help us move from rage and despair into collective, radical action. SERCs are continuing and growing---a people-led public infrastructure sweeping the country from Boston to Utica, MS to Atlanta, Albuquerque, Washington DC, Chicago, Orange, NJ, Hartford, CT, Canada and Serbia... They are popping up in homes, community centers, schools, colleges, churches and conferences. SERCs function as both an artistic gesture and a practical solution. As such,they aim to find the balance between the two, answering questions like: How will we feed people--and their hunger for justice? How will we create a shelter--where it's safe to bring your whole damn self? What will reconstruction--of civil society--look like?

Interested in running your own SERC? This SERC Manual has everything you need from timelines, supply lists and suggested budgets. All it needs is you, a friend or team to get the ball rolling.

The SERC manual is now available through the Public Lab Press here

SERC is a project by the Design Studio for Social Intervention.and we are excited to be sharing SERC Manuals through the Public Lab Store to all of you! For technical assistance on getting started, or a SERC Kit, we'd love to hear from you! Contact us anytime at

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Announcing 10 Summer of Code projects for 2018

by warren | over 2 years ago | 14 | 5


We're happy to announce we're accepting 9 students through Google Summer of Code this season. This is almost double last year's 5 slots, and reflects big, positive changes in our community this past year.Update: we also just learned that we are working with a team of two through Rails Girls Summer of Code!

(I've cross-posted this here)

We've seen a dramatic rise in newcomers over the past year (read more here and follow #software-outreach), and over a dozen contributors emerged as community leaders, not only championing larger and more complex projects, but also welcoming in and supporting newcomers to grow our community. Many of this year's students are in this group.

Congratulations and thanks: @MaggPi, @Gauravano @namangupta @Vidit @tech4GT @mridulnagpal @bansal_sidharth2996 @sagarpreet @Souravirus

See all the proposals here:

Title Author Updated Likes Comments
GSoc Proposal: OAuth & Upgrade to Bootstrap 4 @bansal_sidharth2996 9 months ago 41
GSOC Multi Party Auth System @bansal_sidharth2996 11 months ago 0
GSOC-18 Email notification overhaul. @vidit over 2 years ago 37
Gsoc 2018: Final Work Product - Email notification overhaul @vidit over 2 years ago 1
GSoC 2018: Upgrade of Public Lab to Rails 5.2 @souravirus over 2 years ago 2
GSoC 2018: Final Work Product of Draft Feature and Email Integration Project @gauravano over 2 years ago 3
GSoC Submission for Leaflet Blurred Location Part 2 @mridulnagpal over 2 years ago 1
GSoC Proposal: Draft Feature & Email Integration Project @gauravano over 2 years ago 40
GSoC 2018 Wrap-Up Post @sagarpreet over 2 years ago 1
GSoC proposal: Computer Vision enhancements for Raspberry Pi based Public Lab Science Projects @MaggPi over 2 years ago 26
GSoC proposal: Social Media Integration and Leaflet-Layers Library . @sagarpreet almost 3 years ago 50
GSoC proposal: Upgrade to Rails 5 @souravirus almost 3 years ago 26
GSoC proposal: Leaflet Blurred Location Part 2 @mridulnagpal almost 3 years ago 25
GSoC proposal: Email integration Project @namangupta almost 3 years ago 44
GSoC proposal: Image-Sequencer v2 : Processing on steroids @tech4gt almost 3 years ago 33
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We'd also like to thank those who have made it possible, through their supportive mentoring, for our community to see such successes -- including those who help (beyond coding) to shape the course of our software projects by proposing new features, and those who help to set the positive, welcoming tone that makes our project one which people want to join.

Congratulations to our 9 summer projects, and thanks also to those whose projects weren't selected. We wish we could work with all of you, and we deeply appreciate what you contribute.

PS: For a cool animation of our collaboration, check out this page and press RUN:

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Hacked Infragram Raspberry Pi camera now on the International Space Station

by warren | almost 3 years ago | 3 | 2

(Reposted from the Rosco company blog with permission)

This blog post covers an exciting development over at the Astro Pi Challenge, which builds on work by Public Lab contributor @nedhorning, @cfastie, and many others from the Infragram project, (including collaborators from Farm Hack) from the past few years. We are currently working in partnership with NASA's AREN project on the Infragram platform and the Image Sequencer project designed specifically for this kind of hacked Raspberry Pi camera! Great job, folks!

The European Astro Pi Challenge gives students the opportunity to run science experiments using two Astro Pi Computers that are aboard the International Space Station. Russian Soyuz Mission MS-08 recently delivered upgrades for the Astro Pi Computers -- including some Rosco color filters -- that will allow some of those students to conduct their own observations of our planet's vegetation while safely at home on Earth.

LIFTOFF! @Astro_Ricky, @Astro_Feustel and @OlegMKS launched at 1:44pm ET in their Soyuz spacecraft. The trio will travel on a two day journey before reaching their new home on @Space_Station this Friday. Watch:

— NASA (@NASA) March 21, 2018

The Astro Pi Computers include many different sensors to collect data, but one of them is equipped with an infrared, Pi NoIR Camera from Raspberry Pi that enables the students to observe Earth's vegetation health and growth from space. A Pi NoIR Camera features the same technical properties as a standard camera, except that it has the IR filter removed so that it can perceive the infrared spectrum of light.

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Astro Pi computer equipped with Pi NoIR Camera

The upgrades that recently arrived at the I.S.S. included some Rosco #2007 Storaro Blue filters that have been modified for installation onto the Astro Pi Computer. The R2007 filter was laser-cut to friction-fit onto the 12 inner heatsink pins on the base of the Astro Pi unit and positioned so that the aperture of the Pi NoIR Camera is properly covered.

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Raspberry Pi Camera -- laser cutting the R2007 filter -- Astro Pi Computer with R2007 filter installed

Some of the student teams taking part in the Astro Pi competition are investigating the health of vegetation on Earth. Having learned that plants grow through photosynthesis, what they're learning now is how photosynthesis translates into color reflectance. Healthy plants reflect a significant amount of infrared energy, which is invisible to the naked eye. Most of the visible spectrum (predominantly blue and red wavelengths) is absorbed, with some green light reflected. This accounts for the green color that we see in healthy vegetation. As stress in plants increases, photosynthesis slows down or stops, infrared wavelengths are absorbed and more visible red light is reflected, which accounts for the "browning" of unhealthy vegetation.

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The R2007 filter absorbs most of the red and green wavelengths while allowing the blue and near-IR sections of the spectrum to pass onto the camera's sensor. By examining the data in this "infra-blue" energy, the Astro Pi Computer can evaluate the photosynthetic activity of plants by calculating the ratio of blue and infrared light that is reflected from plants to determine the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). The students back on Earth can use this NDVI measurement to assess plant-health around the world.

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Image setup (L), resulting NDVI image (r) (via @nedhorning)

Since the R2007 filters have only just arrived at the International Space Station, we don't have any of the imagery the Astro Pi Computers will capture yet. The image above from, however, uses a similar technique and is an excellent example of what that NDVI imagery might look like. Note how the healthy grass registers blue/green, while the dead grass in the upper left corner registers green/yellow/red. You can find more information about this NDVI experiment and learn how to shoot your own NDVI imagery on this Public Lab webpage.

If you'd like more information about Raspberry Pi and how their affordable, easy-to-use technology is encouraging kids around the world to code computers -- even in space -- visit To learn more about the filter products used in these experiments, be sure to explore our Rosco Color Filters webpage.

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by stella | almost 3 years ago | 12 | 6

Organized by : Rails Girls Nairobi Rails Girls Community


  February 16th - 1400hrs to 1700hrs
  February 17th - 0800hrs  to 1700hrs

Faceook Event URL : Event Link Photos URL : Rails Girls Nairobi Twitter hashtag : #RailsGirlsNairobi #MegaCoding

Organizers Name & Email

Our Sponsors:

  • Microverse
  • Gitlab
  • Riara University
  • Google
  • Software Lab Ventures, LLC
  • Gold Avenue Music, LLC


How many registered to attend : 100 How many turned up in total : 61 Male Attendees : 20 Female Attendees : 41


The aim of the event was to introduce Ruby on rails to attendees and help them realize the importance of tech communities in career development. Our target audience was students from the age of 16. We also wanted to bring coaches who have experience on these technologies to come and speak to the attendees and also have a hands-on sessions with them as they start their journey on Ruby on Rails and software development in general. We managed to bring together 16 awesome coaches who use Ruby daily in building softwares and had a total of 39 beginners who wrote their first code in Ruby on Rails during our event.

Overall Objective:

We the Rails Girls Nairobi organizers, thought of organizing our first major event after completing the training of the1st cohort of the Rails Girls program which had about 6 ladies committed to the program. We needed continuity and growth to the tech community in terms of outreach and knowledge transfer to those interested in venturing into the world of programming, using Ruby as the programming language to get them started. Our major target was college students due to their flexibility in attending the scheduled meetups. The aim of the event was to introduce Ruby on Rails to attendees and help them realize the importance of tech communities in career development. The students were also introduced to open source world and be guided on how to contribute to open source projects. We had Alumna of great student opportunities such as Google Summer of Code, Outreachy, Rails Girls Summer of Code and Anita Borg also gave tips on how to get into such opportunities.

Success Highlights:

Attendee Feedback: After the event we sent out a feedback form to the attendees and coaches. Summary of the feedback was: - The event was amazing and informative - Direct involvement from the coaches helped them understand and grasp the content better. - Lightning talks such as opportunities in tech, real life tech stories, good programmer practices, version controlling were very inspiring and made them be inspired to keep continue building softwares. - The warm-up games were awesome and helped people to bond and clear their minds. They would love such events to be organized outside Nairobi.

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Building miniature kites at a family science night

by SuziT9 | almost 3 years ago | 4 | 5

On March 1, 2018, several members of our Montana State University team (Academic Technology and Outreach)

shared a hands-on engineering activity with hundreds of kids and adults at MSU's annual Family Science Night on March 1.

We are all part of the NASA AEROKATS and ROVERs Education Network (AREN), and our goal was to engage and excite kids of all ages by helping them build miniature kites (see supplies, equipment and observations below). AREN is a program supported by NASA Science Mission Directorate Science Education that designs and uses low-cost instrumented systems for in-situ and remotely sensed Earth observations including kite-based "AEROKATS" and remotely controlled aquatic and land-based "ROVERS."

In the morning, the event hosted 150 fifth graders from local Title 1 schools (high percentage of free and reduced lunch). The evening saw 385 members of the community - mainly families with children, some as young as 2 or 3 years old.

To say it was controlled chaos is putting it mildly!

At our AREN station, kids (and sometimes their parents) used tissue paper, mylar, silk thread and 20-inch straws to build one of two different miniature kites based on the excellent designs and resources of Glenn Davison. AREN team members assisted with the construction process while sharing an overview of the NASA AREN project and words of encouragement for our country's future scientists and engineers. The miniature kites featured blue and gold materials to celebrate Montana State University's 125th birthday.

Overall, kids and adults really enjoyed this activity, and -- if they followed the instructions -- the kites really flew!

Below are the materials and equipment we used, preparation, observations and possible extensions.



* Tissue paper (Experimented with copy paper and plastic tablecloths; tissue worked best)

* Mylar (roll of 24" x 8 feet) (Experimented with audio cassette tape; mylar worked best)

* Silk thread

* 20" straws (bought in packs of 200 for about $20 on Amazon)


* Tape dispensers (many)

* Scissors (several)

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* Signs /banners publicizing the activity/project

* Signs or laminated sheets with step-by-step instructions (This was really helpful because we had so many kids at once and one-on-one help was not possible)

* Cardboard template(s) if kids will be cutting their own tissue paper (We pre-cut the tissue)

* Large surface area for construction plus chairs


* Pre-cut tissue paper for Rokkoku and Koren Fighter Kite designs (or kids can do it themselves if you have more time and less chaos)

* Pre-cut gold mylar tails (The mylar is fairly expensive and a bit hard to cut so allow enough time. Best if kids don't do it)

* Marked off 18-inch spans with painter's tape on table (for thread) (Kids tended to cut the thread way too long, thinking longer is better)

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* Kids under about fifth grade require parent's help

* Kids (and parents) want to experiment with the design ("be creative"), but those kites do not fly. Need a gentle way of telling people to follow the instructions

* "Being creative" can also use up your materials supply

* Kids will try to take a big straw (because they're fun) without making a kite

* Need to find the balance between "helping" and "doing it for them."

Possible extensions

* Make a list of questions we as facilitators could ask (either orally or on a sign) that encourage kids to think about the design process

* If lots of time and small group, could experiment with various designs before "unveiling" the field-tested design that really flies.

For more information, feel free to contact me! It was super fun and educational, too.

Suzi Taylor -

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