Who can “be a scientist”?
Evvvveryyyyone! Plus you. Plus 13-year olds. We can all agree that STEM education is super important and that students are probably already really really good at using cellphones. Therefore, this is a cool & concise article from interactions about using citizen science and participatory sensing to get students doing “real-world” science. Rad? Rad! Here is a bit, read the whole article!
As mobile phones have become increasingly powerful, with multicore processors and a wealth of sensors, they’ve been identified as a viable tool for use in citizen science projects. One example is Project Budburst , a participatory sensing project to identify phenological changes in the environment as a way to confirm or refute global warming. Using their free mobile application and a cellphone camera, volunteers snap photos of specific plants during different stages of their lifecycle (e.g., first bloom, first leaf). Conducting a global study of this magnitude would require vast resources, but through participatory sensing, Project Budburst has been able to collect nearly 14,000 data samples in five years, at minimal cost. The data from Project Budburst has shown shifts in phenological activity for stages of certain plant species.
As the saying goes, “Let’s kill two birds with one stone.” But instead of killing the bird, let’s collect data about it. Let’s connect scientists with students, and build a mutually beneficial relationship where citizen scientists have a new source of data, and students gain real-world knowledge of why science is so important. Mobile phones are a particularly attractive tool for connecting these domains due to their lasting “cool” factor. But as it stands, a mobile phone in a child’s hand is rarely used for science, but rather the consumption of media and games, or texting with friends.