Sensing the Environment Hackathon: Part I

June 02, 2017

Sensing the Environment:  A series of collaborative projects between Make+Think+Code@PNCA, Intel, and the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council to use art and technology to better understand our ecosystems, and the habitats and behaviors of birds and other life that shares our environment.

We begin with a hackathon at Make+Think+Code@PNCA (July 14 - 16, followed by a week of prototyping and presentations on July 21) for naturalists and ecologists, artists, designers, and technologists.

If you'd like to join us for any part of the project, please fill in the form linked here.

The Goal(s):

Design and build sensor kits to gather environmental data; use techniques of data science (deep learning) to analyse and interpret the data that we collect; and discover and tell the hidden stories about these species and spaces through virtual/augmented/mixed reality.

The First Project: Acoustic monitoring

Design and build a prototype for a kit to detect, track, and identify migrating birds and bats through sound. We currently have very little data for the region and while there are wonderful operational devices in existence, new technology and creative minds like you can create a mobile, (wireless), self-sustaining version we can use on rooftops, windows, all over Portland and the Pacific Northwest. Ideally, the new device would be battery-powered (with solar recharging, even better), and the system could record every sound onto a thumb drive or send it wirelessly to the cloud. Come play, experiment in collaborative teams, and create an amazing device that allows us to discover the birds and bats that inhabit and move through our region!

The Second Project:  Creating sensor kits for volunteer citizen scientists

Design and build a mobile sensor kit that gathers environmental data (about air, water, soil, light, canopy, ...) and connects to a corresponding app on your phone. The goal is to find correlations between the various fauna and flora and their environment. We focus on the Sandy River and its delta to help determine which organisms are thriving or suffering in which environments so that they can direct volunteer efforts in planting trees and creating waterways that best support these organisms (plants, animals, reptiles, bugs, fish, etc.).

Coming soon (Fall 2017 - Spring 2018) We hope to deploy all these kits in the late summer and fall (for this season) and for all of 2018. In the fall, we plan to host two series of workshops. The first will focus on using data science and machine learning/AI to analyze the data we collect. The second will be on designing for VR/AR/MR to find ways of using emerging technologies to visualize our insights, and the ecological and cultural history of this ecosystem. Look for this wonderful series of stories and narratives on Earth Day 2018.

This will be a joint endeavor between students, educators, enthusiasts, industry professionals. If you'd like to join us for any part of the project, please fill in the form linked here. Please do share with anybody who might be interested.


Partners and Sponsors:

Blue Star Donuts

Crowd Supply


Nordic Semiconductor

Nossa Familia Coffee


Portland 3D Printing Lab

Public Lab

Sandy River Basin Watershed Council


Event Schedule:

July 14th: Meet at 6pm in the Mediatheque at PNCA (511 NW Broadway, on the ground floor.) We will do introductions and begin discussing ideas and forming teams. Dinner will be served from 5:30pm on.

July 15th: Hacking begins at 9:30am. The building opens at 8am, so you're welcome to start earlier if you like. Food, drink and snacks will be provided throughout the day. We will go all day until the building closes at 10pm.

July 16th: Hacking begins at 9:30am. Again, the building opens at 8am if you want a head start. Late lunch will be served, snacks and beverages will be provided. Panel presentations will happen in the afternoon - plan to have some preliminary designs for your sensor ready to show off.

July 17th - 21st: Plan to come by the Make+Think+Code lab at PNCA (room 217) during the week to build, discuss, and test your prototype.

July 21st: Reception event from 5:30 - 7:30pm. This event is open to anyone you'd like to invite: designs will be displayed, snacks and refreshments will be provided. Show off what you've been working on, and strategize about getting your sensors built and deployed for the next phase of Sensing the Environment.

Note: We understand that not everyone can be here for the entire event. If you want to come late/leave early/step out for a while, that's perfectly fine. There's no pressure for you to be here the whole weekend - You also have the whole week to work on on things if you want.