Why I Love Citizen Science

I recall my middle school and high school biology classes with some fondness. I absolutely loved learning about the human body and plants and fossils. Growing fruit flies was a very fun experiment and has helped me comprehend concepts on one of my favorite sites - 23andme.com. I used the word "some" because there were definitely aspects of those classes that I found frustrating. I didn't like having to memorize a bunch of information not knowing why it was useful, I didn't like having to dissect a cow's eyeball and I didn't like the uncomfortable metal swivel chairs that we had to sit on. I wanted to be outside learning about the snakes and tadpoles and crickets that I caught with my brothers. I wanted to learn more about the rings on a tree and why bats didn't run into things at night. I wanted to be in the field.

That is probably why I am so attracted to citizen science. My LA Makerspace co-founder, Levi Simons, is the most passionate and hardworking science teacher I have ever met. He has run traditional science classes at LAUSD and private schools and is now concentrating on running workshops out of school so he can do all those things that you just can't do inside a classroom. He has kids around 13 and up from all over LA come to the lab. The diversity of backgrounds is just not something you get in one classroom setting day after day.

Science!

The experiments that the LA Makerspace Community Lab run are mind boggling, but there is one in particular that is close to my heart.

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Advisory Council Meeting at Blankspaces DTLA!

Thank you so much to our friends at Blankspaces DTLA for donating the space last night for our Advisory Council to meet last night and create plans for LAM's future -- and some pretty stellar artbots courtesy of LAM instructor Allen Pan! Not to mention donuts donuted (groan) by Donut Friend.

Our advisors are rad.

 

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What's in the LA River? Part 1

Whenever I bring up that I've been working on a project to study the ecology of the LA river I usually get asked something to the effect of 'how many species of plastic bag have you found?'.

While it's true that the LA river has been more famous over the past 80 years as a flood control channel, movie location, and shopping cart burial ground it still is a river, and rivers always have an ecosystem.  What we've been doing over the past few months at LA Makerspace will now allow for anyone to help answer the question of 'What grows in the LA river, and why does it matter?'.

Yes, this really is a shot along the LA river.
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Exciting News for LA Makerspace!

Summer programming has come to an end and LA Makerspace is fueling up for an exciting year with the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL.) LA Makerspace has signed on to be the primary service provider of the LAPL’s Full STEAM Ahead program. Other providers include the California Science Center, Exploratory, Natural History Museum, Iridescent Learning and Kidspace Children’s Museum. This partnership will allow LA Makerspace to reach over 14,000 students (kids, teens and adults.)

Minecraft, Scratch, Citizen Science, Tabletop Filmmaking, Stop Motion Animation and Robotics are the programs that LA Makerspace will contribute to the Full STEAM Ahead program. Overseeing the new partnership and implementation of the services is LA Makerspace’s new Managing Director, Mya Stark. Instructors include Ariel Levi Simons/Citizen Science, Brian Foley/Scratch, Tara Tiger Brown/Minecraft, Allen Pan/Robotics and Jessica Judd/Tabletop Filmmaking and Stop Motion Animation.

LA Makerspace instructors will train 30-40 librarians in these subject areas. The librarians or Maker Apprentices will then host related workshops at their home branch. This partnership will quickly and dramatically expand LA Makerspace’s reach and scope in the city of Los Angeles, making the Full STEAM Ahead program LA Makerspace’s top priority.

These are exciting times for LA Makerspace, not just in growing as an organization, but also in programming. The Citizen Science Summer Research Program utilized the makerspace at the Pio Pico Koreatown library this summer and studied the LA River. Successful workshops on Tabletop Game Design, Arcade Game Design, 3-D Printing and Optical Theremin took place in the space in June. LA Makerspace in partnership with Pursuitery hosted a four-week-long Minecraft Camp and two sessions of Scratch were offered online through the Summer of Learning initiative. 

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Win a Maker Gift Pack from Intel!

LA Makerspace members and supporters! We're happy to announce a rad giveaway courtesy of Intel: 2 Maker Gift Packs including an Intel Galileo 2 board, three sensors to work with the board, and a free full pass to all three days of the Intel Developer Forum (a $1500 value).
Update: Here's a pic!
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LA Makerspace, Citizen Science and the LA River

Participants in the LA Makerspace’s Citizen Science Summer Research Program, E-CLAW (Ecology and the Chemistry of the Los Angeles Watershed), are studying the Los Angeles River by taking water samples from eight sites along the river from the Chinatown area to the Sepulveda Recreation area.  They are performing a series of chemical, physical and biological tests and comparing their data with 2003-2004 data that was collected by Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR.)  The hope is the research will support and inform the current and upcoming river revitalization projects and, by involving high school students, create a large network of people who can study the river and increase scientific literacy around that research.    

Dropping in on the program to see the science firsthand was inspiring.  High School students are the researchers and they are extremely knowledgeable and fun.   They represent North Hollywood Zoo Magnet, Viewpoint, Wildwood School and West Adams Prepatory High School and all have aspirations to work in STEM related fields. 

Ariel Levi Simons, co-founder of LA Makerspace and Citizen Science instructor explained, “The short term goal of this project is to establish monitoring methods which high school students could implement on an ongoing basis.  This we've mostly accomplished this summer as we've been able to get repeatable data on the chemistry of the river, as well as how to capture samples on the algae and aquatic invertebrates living in the river.  The next step with those samples is to get a reliable method for students to visually identify our samples, which are now preserved and kept by our partners at USC.  Somewhat longer term, our plan is to do genetics sequencing of the algae in the river, again by USC, to get a measure of biodiversity in the system. The main long term goal is to figure out a way of keeping this project going on the scale of years so we can track the river ecosystem during the whole transition of the Glendale narrows from concrete to soft bottom river.”

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 Site Four and Five in Glendale at the Los Angeles River.

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 Evan Visher, high school researcher, measuring water flow.

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Citizen Science High School Researchers

High school students are the researchers collecting and analyzing samples from the Los Angeles River for the LA Makerspace's Citizen Science research project, E-CLAW (Ecology and the Chemistry of the Los Angeles Watershed.) Nikita Hudson, Gemma Busoni, Evan Visher, Megan Ferreira, Chloe Butler-Jones, Chiara Berruto, Max Caplow, Jesse Silva and Roberto A. Salamanca are the high school students participating in the first two-month phase of the program. Ariel Levi Simons leads the project.  Others involved in the research are Stacie Dahl, Robin Sehler and Daniel Kang.  Please continue reading for interviews of the students involved and click here to read more about the project. 

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Comic-Con International: San Diego 2014, Makers and Cosplayers

The 2014 Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) took place from July 24th to July 27th at the San Diego Convention Center and surrounding areas.  It was an epic display of creativity and innovation. There were professionals and fans of comics, film, T.V., anime, art and definitely 3-D printing and making. 

3D Systems interacted with Comic-Con attendees both at their booth and on the floor, demonstrating the 3-D printing process from start to finish.  They used the Cube to print out Comic-Con exclusive items.  They roamed the floor taking 3-D scans of cosplayers so they could create 3-D mementos for these hard-working costume makers. Many companies and cosplayers used 3-D printers to create figurines, display items, creatures or costume parts.  Stratasy Lt. and Legacy Effects, using a design by artist from the Stan Winston School, created an impressive 14-foot monster.

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 3D Systems booth a SDCC 2014.                         

SDCC was overwhelming for the sheer amount of creative innovations.  If you love making, you couldn't help but find something to geek out about during this special five days, but the cosplayers were what really made Comic-Con spectacular.  They spend weeks, months, even years making incredible costumes using all different types of methods, materials and tools.

One such inspiring maker and cosplayer who attended SDCC was Sara Aguilar a 27-year-old Transitional Kindergarten T.A. and Fourth Grade Art Teacher from Huntington Beach. Aguilar spent a month and a half making her costume and was gracious enough to explain her process.

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  Sara Aguilar pre-Optimus makeover.                   Sara Aguilar as Optimus Prime at SDCC 2014.

 

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LA Makerspace, the Mayor and the White House

The White House promoted makers and innovators by hosting its inaugural Maker Faire on June 18th, 2014 where President Barack Obama proclaimed the day to be the National Day of Making. LA Makerspace’s Co-Founder Tara Tiger Brown attended the faire and had this to say about the event, “The White House has recognized that we need to 'make' things here in the US and that in order to do so they need to provide resources for people to brings their ideas to reality. They need the support of grassroots organizations like LA Makerspace to scale. I think we'll see making emphasized again in the classrooms and it will become a more integral part of libraries, museums and even garages.”

Brown had been interviewed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during LA Makerspace’s Kickstarter campaign and later gave them ideas for the White House’s first maker faire. The purpose of the faire was to promote innovation and manufacturing by showcasing new tools, technologies and makers.

 

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Tara Brown at the White House Maker Faire.

 

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Air quality mapping by LAX

With our work in citizen science LA Makerspace acts as the ivory lobby, the community point between the public at large and the ivory tower of academia.  Case in point was some work we did recently with a high school near LAX where students were involved in measuring air quality near one of the busiest flight paths in the world.

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