Archive for the ‘Contest’ Category
This post originally appeared on the PLOS Blog Network.
We’re down to the Final Four in this year’s NCAA tournament, and chances are your bracket isn’t looking too good. Welcome to the club. Worry not! We’ve got four citizen science projects that will help you make the most of Final Four weekend.
MICHIGAN WOLVERINES fans…
If your team gets pummeled this weekend, you’ll make a great Roadkill Observer or Splatter Spotter. Roadkill Survey for Road Bikers need your help to find out where wildlife live and how they move in relation to roads. Project Splatter collects UK wildlife road casualty data via Twitter and Facebook. Both projects hope to identify roadkill ‘hotspots’ for future mitigation projects and help preserve wildlife.
SYRACUSE ORANGE fans…
You’re in the perfect spot to help track the cicadas that emerge once every 17 years across New Jersey, New York and the whole Northeast by planting a homemade temperature sensor in the ground and reporting your findings. Your observations will be put on a map and shared with the entire community. Everyone’s a winner…unless your team loses, of course.
WICHITA ST. SHOCKERS fans…
If you’re too exhausted after the game to harvest wheat in nearby fields, you can still help plants by participating in Clumpy. Simply classify plant cell images by their “clumpiness”, and you can provide researchers with new insights into the progression of bacterial infection in plant cells.
LOUISVILLE CARDINALS fans…
If your team doesn’t live up to the hype, you can always hide your shame in New Hampshire and help scientists study a bird of a different feather. The Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory is coordinating volunteer nighthawk surveys on warm evenings in Keene. Submit your observations of booming, peenting, or nighthawks diving.
And for fans of teams that didn’t make it this far…
Check out Planet Four, a citizen science project in which volunteers help planetary scientists identify and measure features on the surface of Mars. By tracking ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ on the Martian surface, you can help planetary scientists better understand Mars’ climate.
Scientific research aims to answer questions, progress disciplinary knowledge, and ultimately better society by providing new applications of technology and ideas toward common problems. But, over time, the products of our countless research projects, while potentially still useful, go unutilized, and can be forgotten in the basements of University libraries or the dusty archives of journal collections.
This perhaps all too common problem is exactly the motivation behind an new exciting project called Marblar.
The premise: Marblar provides you with the overlooked technologies and ideas, and you – the citizen scientist – provide the applications. Non-traditional, yes, but it’s challenging, engaging, and a fun game where citizen scientists can compete with other across the globe.
I recently spoke with co-founder Dan Antonio Perez to find out his hopes for the project and what he thought of Marblar’s role in citizen science.
“Collaboration is the focus,” Dan said.
The Marblar team spends a lot of time identifying the most interesting technology that can inspire Marblars and generate the most useful applications. Current technologies include a a microchip that can harness the power of motion, ‘Super Foams’ made from emulsions, and a brand new desalination device.
Marblars are given three weeks to post their ideas, discuss with other players, and even collaborate with the inventors to arrive at a final solution. While there are some small cash rewards and other small prizes for top entries, the real reward, Dan says, is that users have a chance to participate in meaningful science and help create ideas with potential.
Through the amazingly easy-to-use Marblar interface, I was also able to speak with several of the top Marblars who have been involved in this process.
Dave, a Biochemistry Ph.D. student studying at The University of Oxford, claimed that the prizes were not important to him. Rather, he was excited to collaborate with people from diverse scientific backgrounds.
After years out of the lab, a top Marblar user, Maria, was excited to get back into the thrill of scientific discussion.
Juan Carlos, a University researcher, was most interested in the fact that in discussing ideas, he was able to get feedback from users outside of his discipline.
This type of broad, multi-discipline collaboration is what makes Marblar such a unique citizen science activity. There is really something for everyone who is interested in science. And they are only getting started. Dan sees Marblar as having great potential for engaging the public and offering a fun way for citizens to engage with some really great minds in science.
It’s science. I’ts a game. And it’s fun. Marblar has some lofty goals, but from my first impressions, they have already achieved quite a bit. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
This was originally published on Huffington Post, by George Zaidan.
SciStarter asked Craig Newmark (of Craigslist fame) why he likes squirrels. He told us that it all started with a simple desire to feed birds. But the suet palaces he was using to dispense the raw, fat-based bird food were constantly getting hacked by squirrels. He tried everything; he even upgraded to “squirrel-resistant” models, to no avail.
It was then that Newmark really began to appreciate the rascally rodents. “Squirrels are smart, tough and athletic, real survivors, and that’s very impressive,” he says. “They’re a candidate to replace humanity if we don’t work things out.”
Newmark, who regularly tweets about squirrels and is a religious observer of National Squirrel Appreciation Day (Jan. 21), has his house wired with “squirrel cams” and was even able to capture — on video — a female entering his house to explore.
But most squirrel observation is low-tech, involving a pair of binoculars and a notebook. These observations eventually work their way into peer-reviewed science.
SciStarter.com, which I like to think of as the Craigslist of science, has a list of squirrel-related citizen science projects here. You can participate for free, and finding squirrels (especially the eastern grey) is about as easy as falling over. They dominate this area, and they’re not shy!
Our citizen science projects are not limited to the East Coast, or even the U.S. There’s the Black Squirrel Project in the UK and the Western Gray Squirrel Project out in the state of Washington.
If you think you’re sly enough to outsmart squirrels, we have a limited-time competition just for you! In partnership with instructables and Discover Magazine, SciStarter is looking for safe and effective ways to keep squirrels and other ravenous vegetarians and omnivores from eating sunflowers. Why? Because sunflowers play a crucial role in citizen science bee observation projects. No sunflowers, no bees. And that would… bee bad. But hurry! Not only is January 21 National Squirrel Day, it’s also the last day you can submit an entry to the Citizen Science Contest!
Some species of ground squirrels hibernate, but tree squirrels don’t. The eastern grey and other tree dwellers ride out the winter in tree hollows and holes, but you can still see them as fall turns to winter. So sign up for a squirrel project here at SciStarter, grab your coat and head out to the nearest deciduous forest, rooftop or really just about anywhere, and start observing!
Or just hang a birdfeeder outside your window.
This post was originally published on CitizenSci, a PLOS blog about the projects, people, and perspectives fueling new frontiers for citizen science.
Hear ye, hear ye! This is an open call to artists, engineers, filmmakers, scientists, hobbyists, lobbyists, foodies, gamers, musicians, photogs, techies, adults, kids, dreamers, schemers, hackers, slackers, athletes, and everyone in between. This is a call to all—SciStarter needs you (yes, you)!
In case you haven’t heard yet, SciStarter has partnered with Instructables and Discover Magazine to help researchers find solutions to real problems that they encounter in their projects. The Citizen Science Contest is your opportunity to help contribute to scientific discovery. (Prizes include a Celestron telescope, DISCOVER subscriptions, and time-lapse cameras!)
We’ve interviewed four citizen science project organizers and asked them to identify the greatest challenges in their work—challenges that you can help them overcome. Perhaps you’re a seasoned gardener and have tips for The Great Sunflower Project on how to prevent critters from eating plants before they flower. Have some ideas about how to use odds and ends around the household to construct inexpensive hail pads? The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHs) could use your help! Think your tech savvy is up to par? Maybe you can come up with suggestions for Project Budburst and Wildlife of Our Homes, both of which are looking for ways to improve the way their volunteers record and submit collected data.
The Instructables DIY community spans an unimaginably vast spectrum of disciplines. We’re hoping that this contest will help these citizen science project managers find creative, interdisciplinary solutions that come from outside of the box. We can’t do it alone, though. You can help make their experiences better by submitting a new citizen science project you’ve developed, present a tool that may be used for current/future citizen science projects, or help spark questions they might not have thought of by participating in discussion.
Here’s the thing, though. The contest ends this upcoming Monday, January 21st! If you have some ideas, navigate to the contest page to take a look. The clock is ticking!
When you wake up in the morning and start your daily routine—take a shower, brush your teeth, cook breakfast—do you ever stop to wonder where all that water you’re using comes from? It’s availability (or lack thereof) is certainly not a common worry in the United States, where as of 2005 (the latest assessment of national water use conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey) about 86 percent of the population relies on public water supplies for household use. Turn a faucet handle, and water, the world’s most precious, life-giving resource, is simply there, ready to cool us or clean us or quench us of our thirst, wherever we need it, whenever we want it.
But for how much longer? Climate change, pollution and unprecedented global demand are already threatening the world’s water supply according to a United Nations World Water Development Report released earlier this year. (SciStarter partnered with Discover Magazine, the National Science Foundation and NBC Learn to explore the Future of Water as part of our Changing Planet series.)
In response to these challenges, two international nonprofit organizations, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the International Water Association (IWA), partnered up to launch a challenge of their own.
Today, September 18, is World Water Monitoring Day, a key component of the broader World Water Monitoring Challenge that runs from March 22 to December 31. Thousands of people from around the world will use low cost monitoring kits to test their local water bodies for the basic indicators of watershed health–temperature, acidity, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen—and enter their results into a shared online database. It’s not too late to get involved. The program’s administrators hope that participants will not only learn which rivers, lakes, streams and reservoirs supply their communities but also become aware of the unique combination of environmental challenges each one faces.
“These are issues the next generation will have to cope with,” said Lorien Walsh of the Water Environment Federation. “The water we drink today is the same water people have been drinking for thousands of years. It is a finite resource, and we can’t use it if it’s not clean.”
In 2011, over 300,000 people from nearly 80 countries participated in the World Water Monitoring Challenge. Taking clean water for granted might be common in the United States, but it is a luxury people can ill afford in the developing world, where three million people, most of them women and children, die from water-borne illnesses like cholera every year.
“Kids in Kansas can see the data they collected and compare it to the data collected by kids in the Congo,” said Walsh. “There’s a stark difference.”
What would you do if you had one week to control a research satellite?
That probably depends on who you are. Amateur photographers might want to take time-lapse photos of the moon to frame in series in their living room. University researchers might want to measure levels of ozone variation on earth across earth’s latitudes. A high school teacher might want to set up the ultimate class project to challenge their students to be real scientists. There might even be someone brave enough to beam down a cosmic marriage proposal!
The great news is that all of these possibilities can become realities with the ArduSat Project.
When I first heard of the ambitious nature of the project I was admittedly a little weary. But, after seeing the amount of initial support and the details of how the project will be funded and carried out, I now believe that the ArduSat Project is an amazingly unique and innovative way for the public to become involved in actual space exploration.
The ArduSat (Arduino Satellite) utilizes state of the art Arduino Processors to process data from over 25 sensors, all housed within a 10cm x 10cm x 10cm CubeSat miniature satellite. Participants will be able to collaborate with others to formulate, test, and ultimately deploy publicly designed applications to run experiments.
What makes this all possible is a unique funding plan set up through the project’s Kickstarter Campaign. The campaign site also has all the information you will need to get started with the project. As with any Kickstarter project, based on the amount you pledge, you are rewarded with increasingly enticing awards. Rewards start at very reasonable pledge amounts and include chances to have satellite photos sent right to your email inbox, development packages to design advanced Arduino based applications, and reserved satellite time to run experiments.
The Kickstarter campaign ends July 15th and has a goal of $35,000 – so hurry and reserve your spot! Plus, Discover is running a contest until July 6th, to determine the application with the most innovative use of ArduSat. The grand prize is the $1,500 advanced sensor package and a full week to run your experiment. All you have to do to enter is join the campaign at the $1 level! This is an outstanding opportunity to challenge your science class, friends, and fellow space buffs to come together and be handsomely rewarded for inventive ideas.
The possibilities with this project are truly endless, allowing citizen scientists all over the world a amazing opportunity to engage in space exploration. So let your imagination run wild and get involved!
Announcing Philadelphia’s newest citizen science project: MyHeartMap Challenge!
This project aims to crowdsource the first-of-its-kind map of Automated External Defibrillators in Philadelphia by photographing AEDs.
When someone collapses and stops breathing, an automated external defibrillator or AED can save their life. [Home AEDs are available for purchase.] In Philadelphia, PA, a city with about 1.5 million people, AEDs are all around us. Near our homes, workplaces, and even grocery stores! Currently, there is no comprehensive map, and, as a result, AEDs are often not used when they are most needed. With the crowdsourced information collected from this contest, the organizers will build a map of AED locations in Philadelphia that can inform 911 services and the public.
The MyHeartMap contest will officially go live January 31, 2012 at 9am! Until then, you can download the app from the iPhone store and Android marketplace and start submitting entries. Clues will be posted at the project website myheartmap.org and philly.org. The contest closes on March 13, 2012, at 6pm ET!
There are three ways to play:
1. Find and photograph the most AEDs in Philadelphia County before March 13, 2012 and win the $10,000 grand prize. The team or individual that finds the most “confirmed,” “eligible” AEDs by the contest end date will receive the grand prize of $10,000.
2. Be the first to submit a photograph of a “Golden”AED and win $50. The organizers have identified between 20 and 200 AEDs in Philadelphia County as “Golden” AEDs. These are unmarked, and you won’t know it’s a winner when you photograph it. Clues will be posted at the MyHeartMap project website.
3. Want to help but not compete for a prize? Submit addresses of locations without AEDs or that you wish had an AED – this is just for fun, and it will help with the map.
Ruth Brooks, a gardener with a soft spot for snails, has just won the BBC’s “So You Want to Be a Scientist?” contest. You may recall that she was our favorite when we reported in April on the four finalists for the contest.
Brooks’s ground-breaking (if slow) project showed that, contrary to what many scientists thought but gardeners suspected, snails have a homing instinct. The clever mollusks, she found, will return to their home gardens even if they’ve been relocated 100 feet away.
Brooks was helped in her research by Dave Hodgson, an ecologist at Exeter University, who described the experimental plan in this video:
Brooks has not yet determined the maximum limits of snails’ homing range, but, according to the BBC, she had this to offer gardeners who can’t bear to murder the creatures:
“I would say that on the evidence that it would be safe to take your snails away beyond 100m [330 feet] or further and put them somewhere nice with some food and you can be almost certain that they won’t come back.” She added: “I shall certainly be following that advice.”
You can follow Brooks’s continuing experiments on Facebook. And let us know–do her adventures spark any science project ideas for you? Add your comments here.
Do girls prefer pink because they can see farther into the red end of the visible light spectrum? Could playing music to bees increase their honey output? What’s the homing range of snails–in other words, how far away do you have to move them to keep them from returning to your garden?
These are just some of the burning questions that citizen scientists have decided to pursue in the quest to become BBC’s Amateur Scientist of the Year. Earlier this year, a panel of judges culled the 1,300 entrants down to a short list of 10. Today on Material World–the BBC’s weekly science broadcast–host Quentin Cooper announced the four finalists. They are:
- Croupier Sam O’Kell, who hypothesizes that the densest part of a music concert crowd is 6 to 10 feet from the barrier. He’ll test his thesis by wading into the mosh pit wearing a pressure-sensitive vest.
- High school student Nina Jones, who wants to know how and why people choose their Facebook photo.
- Photographer John Rowlands, who thinks there’s a connection between solar activity and noctilucent clouds (very high, night-shining clouds).
- Retired tutor Ruth Brooks–our favorite–who can’t stand to murder the snails in her garden and instead wants to figure out a humane, but foolproof, relocation plan.
Each of the Fab Four will work with a researcher to complete their projects. In September, they will present their results at the British Science Festival, where judges will choose the Amateur Scientist of the Year.
The best part of the whole thing is listening to the would-be scientists describe their ideas: Their sense of curiosity and wonder is contagious; from observation and anecdote to hypothesis and method, they show that science is simply a way of looking at our world. Reminds you that we’re all scientists–of one sort or another.
To get us all in the mood to celebrate the start of Firefly season, check out Owl City’s Fireflies music video.
The Museum of Science, Boston, kicks off each year of its Firefly Watch citizen science project with a day-long celebration in honor of everyone’s favorite insect and the volunteers who help monitor their populace so researchers can learn more about these fascinating little buggers. This year, the official Firefly Watch season starts on April 24th!
If you are in the Boston, MA, area, visit the Museum of Science and enjoy special presentations from firefly scientists and a host of children’s activities. No worries if you can’t make it to the Museum. Sci4Cits has partnered with the Museum of Science to present a contest! Between now and May 7th, create a Sci4Cits member blog (from the homepage, click on the Member Blog tab, then sign-in, to get started) and post a picture, drawing, or video of a firefly–or any interpretation of a firefly–with a creative caption of your choosing and you will be entered into a random drawing. Five winners will receive a Museum of Science T-shirt AND have their blog post featured on the homepage of ScienceForCitizens.net.
Think it’s too early to spot a Firefly? Not so! Here’s a member blog post from Don Salvatore, the creator of the Firefly Watch, in which he describes a daylight, cold-weather tolerant, Firefly species!
Good luck. If you have any questions, just email us at email@example.com and we’ll help you get started with your very own Member Blog post.