After a few days here in Detroit, the groups have made amazing progress on their challenges. The challenges were:
- DIY Lighting: Solutions that help citizens create outdoor lighting
- Digital Community: Online infrastructure for connecting—offline and in-person
- Air Monitoring: Citizen-powered systems for monitoring and reporting air quality
- DIY Soil Safety: Creating ways for ordinary citizens to better understand their soil
- Compost Rotation: Developing solutions for scalable urban agriculture
We'll roll out more details about each team's work over the next few weeks, but here's a preview.
Within a few hours of beginning our challenges, the air testing team (above) strapped a particulate sensor to a laptop and took it out to grab samples and talk to local residents about air monitoring. Their conversations revealed that there's a wide spectrum of perceptions about air and air quality. Their ultimate goal is to provide citizens with ways to regain agency over their air. Inspired by Detroit's vibrant graffiti culture, they have identified opportunities for both data collection and creative expression that make the invisible visible, via tools both to collect data and "tag" pollution.
The lighting team, (De)Constructing Light, (above) discovered through talking to residents that light and community are closely related. Without communication, a neighborhood is just a neighborhood; light is a pure form of communication that helps us form community and make connections. Offering people ways to reshape and personalize the things they care about and use every day makes them care about those things more. Educating residents about what's possible was an important first step, and more important than actually building a perfect light.
In a workshop on Sunday at the Mt. Elliott Makerspace, the team showed a group of kids that finished objects are not always finished—we can take things apart and reuse them in different, and sometimes more useful, ways. They led the workshop through a project that involved taking apart and re-imagining a flashlight, teaching participants that disassembling an object can be a metaphor for empowerment.
The compost team, Black Gold, (above) is educating and enabling people about home worm composting. They're also making available a community-wide composting system. The team decided use worms for a few reasons: they create usable compost as much as six times faster than aerobic composting, and they generate higher-quality compost; in addition, using worms for composting eliminates the need to flip compost, one of the more labor-intensive and difficult aspects of aerobic composting. Finally, the worms self-perpetuate, so they can be shared with friends and neighbors indefinitely.
The community team (above) is creating a network of billboards and interactive in-store displays in community hubs around Detroit, the Detroit Digital Board or D-board. The D-board will allow for richer information sharing within and across communities, by showcasing local events, community resources, and positive messages in public spaces. This project will allow Detroiters to inform themselves, changing the urban environment by conveying positive, community-focused information.
The soil team (above) has created CitySoil: Detroit, a three-part plan to engage, educate, and share information about how to test soil and improve soil performance. They're working on ways to educate residents about what questions to ask about their soil; how to test the soil and what to look for in the results; and how to share this information with neighbors and other residents through tools like interactive maps and data visualizations.