stories from the Public Lab community
As part of our series on all the amazing work that's been done with kite and balloon mapping over the years -- work that's led to our new Mini Balloon and Kite kits, today we'd like to highlight a number of educational projects from our community and partners over the years.
Pictured above: Launching a Mini Kite Kit at Parts & Crafts' Girls Invention Week
To start with, this morning we ran an activity with Parts & Crafts in Somerville, Massachusetts, who have been a great partner over the years. Parts & Crafts is a makerspace for kids and their friends, and an alternative school program and DIY-centric camp. They've done a lot of Public Lab projects since the very start, and this week was Girls Invention Week -- so we took the Mini Kite Kite out for a spin with some amazing girl inventors!
We've kite-mapped with Parts & Crafts before, too -- read more about their work at: https://publiclab.org/tag/parts-and-crafts
Pictured: balloons on Newtown Creek in Brooklyn, NY -- image CC-BY-SA Nicholas Johnson
The Public Mapping Mission was a combination online/offline course and a collaboration between Public Lab, GovLab Academy, the Center for Urban Science and Progress and the MIT Media Lab. The second part of the course was a public event in which participants mapped Newtown Creek on December 7th. This is their story...
After a rainy and cold Friday night, the forecast for Saturday afternoon was looking much better. High of 41ºF with 10-15mph winds from the west, and indeed it was a clear, cold and windy day. Our group of dedicated mappers met at Newtown Creek at the Plank Road site in the afternoon. We were carrying two kites, two Public Lab balloon kits, an 80cf tank of helium and other miscellaneous supplies.
Shortly after our arrival on foot, an armada of canoes from the North Brooklyn Boating Club arrived, reinforcing our efforts and providing naval support...
Read more about their work at: https://publiclab.org/n/9843
Students building Soda Bottle Rigs for their cameras - photo CC-BY-SA Meghan Jain
In 2014, Meghan Jain spent about a month creating a Balloon Mapping Curriculum, which you can download from her post: https://publiclab.org/notes/mjain26/07-28-2014/youth-balloon-mapping-workshop-complete
When members of a community are faced with a problem, generally they need evidence. Most people rely on labs to produce these studies. Through using balloons and kites to produces areal image data, citizens can increase the amount of power they have. Using a balloon is inexpensive and accessible, which helps members of the community engage in their civic communities. The more they know, they more they can do.
Read more about their work at: https://publiclab.org/notes/mjain26/07-28-2014/youth-balloon-mapping-workshop-complete
We're looking for more stories -- and great images -- to highlight, so please tweet out a picture and tell your story -- and mention @PublicLab!
balloon-mapping kite-mapping education parts-and-crafts
Thanks for a terrific first week of our Kickstarter! 47% in our first seven days is awesome -- thanks for your support.
We often talk about how Public Lab is dedicated to collaborative work, and we've mentioned that the new Mini Balloon and Kite Kits are "prototyping kits" -- but we want to get the ball rolling on what exactly we're hoping to collaboratively prototype.
So we'll be announcing "challenges" or "unknowns" that we're inviting folks to chip in their thoughts on -- and if you're already a mapper, to try out yourself.
We'd also love it if people would post their questions, ideas, and challenges, so we can collect them and help get this collaboration going. That's how Public Lab works -- and I wanted to mention that we've been doing this in person as well; at the Appalachia Barnraising (read more about these Public Lab events here) this past weekend, we spent a morning testing out these new kits in Morgantown, West Virginia (lead image).
Online, we've already begun collecting basic information about the kits at these pages on the Public Lab site:
Each has a "Questions" area where you can post your questions, and we've started things off with a few already.
For today, we want to break the ice with a discussion of weight -- these balloons can lift over 60 grams each, which means that on a perfectly calm day, you can lift one of these GoPro alternatives. But what are the best options?
Have you tried these cameras out? Know of something cheaper, lighter, or better resolution? Of course we've done some preliminary testing, but we're also on the lookout for more lightweight cameras. Tell us what you know!
balloon-mapping kite-mapping kits kickstarter
Wow, we'd first like to thank everyone for our first 2 days -- it's very exciting to be at 33% of our goal so early in the campaign! Special thanks to everyone who's helped with outreach -- as a community project, we depend on your help.
Many people have posted #balloonselfies, which is a fun way to show support, as well as a great way to help spread the word about the amazing work our community has done with balloons and kites over the past 7 years.
In that vein, we're going to be highlighting the stories and work of dozens of people using Public Lab tools around the world as the campaign progresses.
Jakarta is flooding and it happens every year.
Willie Shubert (@Willie) works with a network of environmental journalists and they make maps:
We sourced flooding data from local disaster response agency. The flood looks like this.
So we knew where to go and headed out with a kite and a gopro hero 3 to try and make a map. We ended up with some cool pictures.
This group of students at the Thacher School in California used aerial mapping to look at roof conditions:
There's no place like home right? If that's the case, then it's important to make sure that our homes are working and functioning properly; which is why we wanted to use aerial mapping techniques to find out if there was something wrong with the rooftops of the dorms at the Thacher School. After living at Thacher for three years, we are all aware of general information regarding each dorm, and we have lived in three out of the six dorms. Before starting this experiment, we suspected that the older dorms were potentially more vulnerable to water leakage and/or other complications.
Read more about Clare, Helena, Pria and Zoe's AP environmental science project here: https://publiclab.org/notes/section1bp/05-30-2017/all-the-shingle-ladies
This group in New Orleans (also lead image, both by @stevie) made maps of areas affected by stormwater runoff, as part of an ongoing series of community workshops on stormwater.
The goal of this event was to both learn about mapping and also capture aerial and ground survey images of the study sites. We will use these in the next workshop where we'll be working on a study design for our questions. We started the event by revisiting the research questions from the first workshop. Those are:
1. How long does water stay standing in an area?
2. How much rain does it take to flood?
Read more about their work at: https://publiclab.org/notes/stevie/05-02-2017/stormwater-workshop-two-report-community-mapping
We're looking for more stories -- and great images -- to highlight, so please tweet out a picture and tell your story -- and mention @PublicLab!
balloon-mapping kite-mapping kickstarter blog
We've just launched a new kite and balloon mapping project as a part of Kickstarter Gold, a new initiative designed to help highlight the evolution of initiatives that have received funding in the past.
We're obviously very excited to have the chance to share the work that Public Lab community members have done over the years: developing tools and methodologies for community-led research, and creating a robust and supportive environment for new kinds of investigation, information access, and advocacy.
Over the next few weeks, we'll be getting the word out about our existing balloon and kite kits that you all have done so much with, as well as a few new "prototyping" versions, using smaller kites and balloons. We're looking forward to drawing some attention to a set of tools we're really proud of, and are excited about connecting to a large audience about the ways that community driven science can happen where it's needed.
Please help us get the word out -- and in the coming days, we'll be following up to ask for more input as well, as we'd love to highlight all your amazing work and balloon-mapping stories! Take a look at our press release here, and visit our campaign at the link below.
Thank you, as always for your support!
balloon-mapping kite-mapping kickstarter blog
Authors: Lydia, Conor, Jane Link that helped us with our project: http://kap.ced.berkeley.edu/kaptoc.html Introduction Our group set out to find a viable way to map areas of Golden Trout to assess grazing for the donkeys, surface water flow, foot trails, and other necessary information. Because Golden Trout Camp (henceforth GTC) is around an eight hour drive from Ojai, we were unable to put these methods to practice, so our goal was to create a simulation for something to be replicated there. This will help GTC, an 80 acre area in the Sierras with dense sections of forests, over 100 ft. tall trees, large elevation changes, and large meadows/clearings, by providing a simple and low cost DIY method to take detailed aerial images to address conditions in remote locations such as Golden Trout Camp. Additionally, this method is easily replicated to find changes over time, either short or long term. We had the ability to see the current map of GTC, which provided us with some information about the area as well as different difficulties that could arise. From this, we were able to find similarities between GTC and where we were flying our kite. This allowed us to get an accurate simulation of what it would be like at GTC. Aerial mapping is a good way to contribute to this because up-to-date images and maps are vital to the function of GTC. It would allow up-to-date images of different foot trails, grazing areas, wildlife, plants, and surface water, which would help day-to-day functions at the camp.
Methods Equipment G-Sky Hi Sky Delta 7 x 3.5 ft. kite (note: significant wind necessary to keep kite airborne) Canon PowerShot A490 camera and memory card Top of plastic juice container (stabilizing contraption) Laptop (to load photos onto) String Rock (to hold down shutter) Rubber bands Gathering data Procedure Find open location and judge wind strength Set up kite Turn on camera Put camera in the rubber band contraption (4 rubber bands tied together, as seen in image below) Secure small rock above the shutter so that the camera will continuously take photos Take camera with rubber bands attached and place it in container, with the lens facing downwards Stretching the rubber bands, secure the camera in its container by attaching the string to the outside of the container.
Attaching the camera Attach the container, with the secured camera, to the kite string hanging approximately 10 ft. below the actual kite. (We originally attempted to attach the camera directly to the kite, however this caused the kite to be weighed down.) Have one person hold onto the kite giving around 30 ft. of slack.
Preparing to launch the kite Another person, holding the string, walks backwards to help launch the kite When the string is taut, the person holding the kite releases it, and the person with the string starts to run backwards, in order for the kite to gain elevation. However, if there is a lack of wind, use an ATV or other motorized vehicle in order to pick up speed and allow the kite to gain elevation.
Conor beginning his drive around the Gymkhana Field Slowly let the string out to raise the kite to the desired height Using the wind, maneuver the kite, to find the best location for taking your photos
Kite visible very high over the ridge If possible, use different kite flying maneuvers in order to stabilize the kite and camera. This will lead to clearer and more useful images.. After desired amount of time (we suggest 20-30 minutes), slowly reel in your kite looking out for any potential obstacles When the kite reaches the ground, remove rock, turn off camera, and download photos on to computer.
We were able to gather data through uploading the hundreds of images from the camera’s memory card onto a laptop and looking through them. Although many of the images were not helpful (because they were taken during the setup, were blurry, etc.) a large amount of them were very clear and useful. Because of the height that the kite reached, we were able to gather photos of a wide area that included fields, trees, and roads.
Area that we were mapping for the simulation
Analysis With the photos that we took, we determined some of the beneficial aspects of kite mapping, as well as some of its limitations. We found that kite mapping is ideal for places that are hard to access, as helium is unnecessary, as well as for taking pictures of large areas with many obstacles. In areas with dense forests, beginning the flight of either a kite or balloon can be extremely difficult and dangerous to the equipment. With a kite, however, you can find an area to launch, then using wind direction, maneuver the kite above the area that you initially wanted to launch (densely forested areas, etc.). Despite these benefits, kite mapping can be problematic when there is a lack of wind, lack of an open location to launch the kite, or too much wind, where you will not be able to stabilize your kite and camera, resulting in bad photos. Kite mapping, when used correctly, can be a great solution to problems that may come from normal aerial mapping, using a balloon and helium.
What worked and what didn’t?
Which Kite To Use
Through multiple test runs, we were able to determine which kite to use depending on wind conditions. When there was not much wind, the large kite is the the better one to use, as it will be easier to keep in the air. However, when the wind is severe, the smaller kite better stabilized the camera, resulting in clearer photos.
How To Counteract Wind Problems
One of the largest and most obvious problems that comes with aerial mapping using a kite is the lack of wind. The larger the kite, the easier it is to get it in the air as well as stabilize to get good images.
Why Kite Mapping is Useful in the Backcountry
One reason that aerial mapping is ideal for Golden Trout Camp is that by using the direction that the wind is traveling, you can angle your kite to fly above dense sections of trees, where launching either a balloon or kite would be very difficult.
Problems with Elevation Change
One potential problem with using aerial mapping in a place like Golden Trout is that it is difficult to see the changes in elevation. In our test location, the Gymkhana Field, we found it difficult to notice the elevation change from the field to the top of the hill. We estimate that the difference in elevation is approximately 120 ft. A simple solution to this problem is to lower your kite. However, at Golden Trout the Lodgepole Pine Trees make it impossible to lower your kite far enough. That being said, a steep elevation change is noticeable on the camera, which should be sufficient enough to create a grazing plan. Generally speaking, the maneuverability of the kite should be large enough to get images of most of the 80 acres. These images are extremely clear and will allow you to see the riparian corridors, perimeters, and common paths easily, while the sheer elevation makes it difficult to identify plant species. One other problem with kite mapping is that it can make it difficult to combine the photos you receive into a map. Because of the wind, the kite will be moving fairly consistently, giving you many shots from different angles and locations making it difficult to create a map.
What did you learn? Throughout this experiment, the lens of kite mapping prompted many new experiences and lessons, as we had never done anything like it. We were able to figure out what the best kite is to use, how to fully take advantage of the uniqueness of kites, the strengths and limitations of kite mapping, as well as how to best apply these ideas in obscure locations, that we are not able to travel to. Sample photos
Recommendations Equipment (Link to aerial mapping kit used: https://publiclab.myshopify.com/products/kite-mapping-pack ) For this project, the necessary pieces of equipment are a large kite, long string for the kite, a camera with the ability to take constant photos or something that aids that, and a plastic holder for the camera (see materials list for comprehensive version). We recommend observing how utilizing the different tails of the kites affect their flights (we did not have the time to complete these observations). Replications over time In order to replicate this, all that would be necessary is good kite-flying conditions. If this is achievable, replication is easy. In order to get the best results, it is best to get the kite very high so the camera covers a larger area. We had hoped to map other areas as well, such as Thacher Creek, the Cow arena, and possibly an athletic field such as the New Field or Upper Field. We were unable to map these areas because of limited time, but we were able to get enough information from the flight we did because of the mount of high quality photos we got. Future directions (improvements or additions to the methods, additional studies this makes you think of) After our first flight, we found that tying the camera lower on the line resulted in a more successful flight. When we did this, we got the kite over 600 feet in the air and were able to get many good and clear photos of areas we wouldn’t be able to photograph otherwise. We also found that using different
Reflections Through this project, we learned that the nature of kite mapping requires a lot of trial and error, and sometimes is not feasible due to conditions outside of our control. We learned how to overcome these obstacles by thinking outside of the box and employing other methods to capture our photos. Because of this hard work, we were able to attain images that aided us in our goal of providing Mr. Spaulding with information helpful to using a kite to establish a viable grazing plan and locate various ecological features of the land (riparian corridors, common paths, and perimeters) in a location that poses some difficulties, GTC.
balloon-mapping kite-mapping kite remote
Big news coming from Public Lab: after many years of fun, creative, and successful Annual Barnraisings, this year’s event (November 3rd-5th!) will be the last of its kind -- at least for the time being -- as we shift focus to Regional Barnraisings.
While all involved have enjoyed the Annual Barnraising, we’ve been watching trends and listening to takeaways. Over the last few years, we’ve noticed how difficult it is for people to travel all the way out to the wetlands of Louisiana, and once there, there’s not much time to work on local environmental issues. Meanwhile, we've seen a lot of growth and excitement at the Regional Barnraisings. There is a lot of passion in place-based projects, and we’re eager to put more power behind that movement.
Starting in 2018, the Gulf Coast event will be reframed as a Regional Barnraising focused on local issues and with local partners. In addition, a second Regional Barnraising will happen somewhere else in the United States every year.
The first Regional Barnraising event was hosted in 2014 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Since then we’ve held them across the US in Chicago, Illinois; Val Verde, California; and this year in Morgantown, West Virginia (June 24th and 25th). We have found the Regional Barnraising event style really successful and are committing energies to growing it out.
Like all Public Lab events, the Regional events are open to anyone interested in attending. It features a specific local issue and always is hosted in partnership with at least one local partner who is on the frontlines of that issue. The event allows for people to stay local, share skill-sets, build networks of locally involved and invested partners, and tends to bring out many first timers to Public Lab. This emphasis has surged attention into specific environmental concerns and projects, made space for creative collaboration, and bolstered the ability of people to bring in fresh ideas and synergy for their projects.
In years to come, we are committed to hosting a Regional Barnraising in the Gulf Coast annually. It is the founding location of Public Lab, and there is so much here to do! We also anticipate that the Gulf Coast event could be hosted in different states across the region.
We recognize that a shift away from one collective annual event potentially reduces people’s cross-regional collaboration. Taking that into account, we will make a targeted effort to fundraise for travel stipends for individuals who would travel to attend the regional events. As always, we encourage folks from all regions to attend all Barnraisings, regardless of where their “home base” is.
We are also committed to posting materials on Public Lab about how to host Regional Barnraisings. In our current capacity, the non-profit is able to host two Regional Barnraising events each year, but we also see room for growth in our ability to support Public Labbers in other areas around the world to host their own Regional Barnraising events, and we are committed to supporting groups who wish to do so! Also in the pipeline, we’re brainstorming for a larger environmental monitoring and community science gathering in the next couple of years.
There are a lot of ideas, and we’d love to hear yours. We’re committed to listening to feedback on this, and over time, reevaluating event styles and shifts. Don’t hesitate to write in, and we’ll also host an Open Call Tuesday, June 6th at 3pm ET (7pm GMT) on this topic. In the meantime--
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