Analyze This: Design Contest Seeks Your Cheap, Open Source Spectrometers
By Nathan Hurst, 03.07.13
Spectral analysis might not really be your thing, but nonprofit science network Public Lab thinks it should be. Formed to provide a community for citizen scientists who want to monitor the health and quality of their surroundings, Public Lab launched today a crowdfunded challenge to create methods and equipment for an inexpensive, open source spectrometer.
“The reason that we started doing this … was in regard to pollution” says Jeff Warren, research director and co-founder of Public Lab. “The challenge is really to inspire people to look at that problem — that really big, pressing issue — that there are these contaminants in our immediate surroundings.”
Public Lab found its raison d’être after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and started using spectrometers as a way to analyze water samples based on how light passes through them. Most people live in places where they’re exposed to contaminants, reasoned Warren. Shouldn’t they be able to measure what’s out there? As spectrometers are typically expensive and difficult to use, last summer they created a simpler one and offered it on Kickstarter, to resounding success. But that was just a piece of hardware. “You want people to use it, but you also want people to get involved in improving it,” says Warren. To really see what a spectrometer can do, Public Lab has to enlist the maker community.
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