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Citizen Science hackfest in Madrid

Citizen Science hackfest in Madrid

Photo by Daniel Lombraña

The 29 and 30 of November of 2013 I organized with the support of FECYT, La Caixa Forum and Medialab-Prado the second citizen science hackfest in Madrid, Spain.

The event this time had the participation of two respected experts in the field of Citizen Science:

The hackfest started with a morning session with talks from all the experts in a dedicated session for the FECYT ComCiRed event at Medialab-Prado.

Francois Grey introduced the past, present and future of citizen science.

Shannon explained how her team create open hardware tools for measuring the world (balloon mapping tools, spectrometers, infrared cameras, etc.) representing the volunteer sensing area.

Then, Fermín Serrano presented the Ibercivis Foundation and its work in Spain regarding volunteer computing with several research projects.

I closed the session talking about volunteer thinking showing how Crowdcrafting can be used by citizens or researchers to create citizen science projects in minutes.

After lunch, we meet again and presented the proposed projects to work during the 30th of November at Medialab-Prado. The Saturday started with a short briefing for the day, explaining the micro-workshops that we will be having along the day:

  • Balloon Mapping: mapping your surroundings,
  • EpiCollect+: gathering data with your phone,
  • Crowdcrafting: creating your own citizen science project in minutes, and
  • DIY Spectrometer

Balloon Mapping

We started with the balloon mapping workshop. Shannon explained step by step how to build the balloon mapping using one of the kits they shell (but that you can build yourself if you want).

We had a very good weather in terms of wind: the balloon was really stable as well as the camera, however it was really cold!

The materials

The materials

Filling in the ballon

Filling in the ballon


Then, we had the EpiCollect+ workshop. We worked in creating an Odour Collect project that basically asks volunteers to quantify or calify the odours that you can find in the city. All you need to participate, is to install the EpiCollect+ application in your Android phone (iOS coming soon!) and join the project.

We also worked in adding more data samples for the Crowdcrafting Lichens project with the participants of the events. We went to park El Retiro, split in teams, and take several samples with our phones. The result: almost 50 new samples from Madrid city that can be directly analyzed in the Crowdcrafting project.


Then we moved to the Crowdcrafting workshop, were I teached and showed how you can create a citizen science project using the available templates, and more impotantly, how you can import the data from the previous two workshops into a Crowdcrafting application, and analyze the data with the help of the volunteers.

For example, after taking the pictures of the balloon mapping workshop, a group of the participants ortho-referenced the pictures for creating the following map:

That was imported into a Crowdcrafting application, using this template. The result, people can help you to count the number of participants in the workshop really easily.

The template provides also an example for measuring areas within the map, and this was the clue to propose to the Medialab-Prado Urban Bees Keepers to use this technique to map the roofs of the city, and quantify which ones are good or not (sometimes they cannot access the roofs) and also to measure how many square meters are available to place several hives.

DIY Spectrometer

We ended the hackfest with the last workshop: build your own spectrometer. This time, we had the collaboration of the Medialab-Prado Origami team, as this spectrometer is built using a sheet of paper. In the following video you can see how we built several spectrometers and play with them.

As you can see, we learned a lot, we produced several prototypes along the day, and above all: we had a lot of fun while learning. If you want to participate in the next citizen science hackfest in Madrid, keep an eye in the Medialab-Prado website, my site and/or Twitter account.

PS: I would like to give a big thank you to FECYT, La Caixa Forum and Medialab-Prado for supporting the event, to Francois, Shanon and Fermín for coming to Madrid and present their work in citizen science, and also to all the participants: without you this would not be possible! THANKS!!!