My hackAIR story: Manuel from Berlin

Manuel Fricke was one of the first to set up a hackAIR home sensor in Berlin. He joined us last week at the hackAIR partners meeting for a conversation. Manuel works in the volunteer management department of BUND in Berlin.

Here is what he shared with us:

What motivated me to build my own hackAIR sensor? I am interested in climate politics, cycling and local politics. And: I wrote an article about hackAIR for BUND. That sparked my interest even more. I thought: this is cool! I can be the first in my network to build a sensor!

When I heard that BUND was offering sensor kits, I ordered one immediately. I wanted to build something and to use technology in order to learn more about my environment. I thought it would not be too complicated and it would not take too long.

Building the sensor

As a digital native, downloading the Arduino software was not difficult for me. I found out quickly that I had to turn off my firewall before I could access the different libraries. The labelling on the board to set up the cables was slightly different from the tutorial. But I managed to connect everything. When I started to build the sensor, I wasn’t aware that I would need a power supply outside. That meant that I needed to set up the sensor in my backyard. I would have preferred to have it at the front of my house with the busy traffic, but I could not get a power cable through my window there. For the sensor casing, I chose the plastic bottle. It works fine.

After following the steps as explained in the tutorial, I was not sure whether my sensor was connected. It was trial and error. When I finally connected my sensor to the hackAIR platform, I could see data in my profile and on the map. Measurements in my profile are always up-to-date, that is great. On the map, there is currently a delay: it shows measurements from two days ago. That needs to be fixed.

I tried to export the sensor data, it has not worked yet. I have seen that the sensor collects data on air pollution, humidity and temperature, but those values are not being displayed. It would be really interesting to have access to all the data.

How to use the air quality data

I’d like to see my sensor data being used by researchers and to talk to others in my neighbourhood about the traffic in our street. Especially the morning commute brings a lot of cars, because people take side roads and everything gets blocked. You can smell and hear them. At the same time, everyone opens their windows to let ‘fresh’ air in, and children walk to school. It would be great to set up a bunch of hackAIR sensors to monitor those peaks of air pollution.

As a cyclist, I want to explore how such measurements can support my own viewpoint also on a political scale. Better infrastructure for bikes would mean less cars on the road and less pollution.  

What’s next?

I have been sharing information about hackAIR with my friends, and I will order a second kit to set up another measurement point. My tip for hackAIR: involve young people! Invite teenagers who are interested in computers. It is easy enough and still challenging enough. hackAIR has potential: just get the kids engaged!

What I really like about hackAIR? It is cool – new – nice design – for me very inviting! It is fun, not too hard to assemble, not very high-tech. And it is a great way to let people know about the issues of air quality in cities.

Thank you, Manuel, for your engagement! And thank you, Arne Fellermann and Lisa Bieker from BUND, for inviting Manuel to our meeting.

Build your own sensor: hackAIR in action

While it is possible to contribute to a better air quality map on your own, it’s a lot more fun to do so in a community of people. That’s why we’re travelling across Europe to participate in and organise workshops and activities on air quality and citizen sensing: Have a look at some recent events in Germany, Belgium and Norway!

Linking up at Open Data Day

Open Data Day is an annual celebration of open data all over the world: 406 events took place on March 3, 2018! It is an opportunity to show the benefits of open data and encourage the adoption of open data policies in government, business and civil society.

hackAIR was partner of the Frankfurt Hackathon, and hackAIR team members Arne Fellermann (BUND) and Carina Veeckman (VUB) also contributed to Open Data Day events in Stuttgart and Brussels.

Arne travelled across Germany on March 3 (Berlin to Frankfurt to Stuttgart and back) and participated in two Open Data Day events: at OK Lab Frankfurt and at OK Lab Stuttgart. He concludes:


“Great communities of OK Labs, inspiring talks and input. Great to discuss the activities of We also received valuable and constructive feedback on hackAIR.”



The Open Data Day event in Brussels (“Towards clean air with open data”) was organised by Open Knowledge Belgium and Civic labs. All resources are available and open for everyone to use: presentations, videos and pictures. Carina Veeckman (VUB) spoke about: “Participatory processes for air quality measurements through hackAIR”. Carina’s presentation slides and the video of her talk give a good overview of the work of hackAIR in the field of air quality measurement and citizen science. She says:


Open Data Day was celebrated in Brussels with an event fully dedicated to open air quality.

The event was a great networking opportunity for hackAIR to strengthen collaborations, and make new contacts.”


Build your own sensor: workshop by NILU

 On March 1, hackAIR partner NILU organised a sensor-building workshop in Oslo. 16 people showed up, from high school students, civil servants of the municipality of Oslo, students of meteorology and environmental activists. After building the hackAIR home sensor, they set them up in simple cases (thanks to for providing fantastic ideas), with the following adaptations:

  • conductive silicone tube (10 cm) to avoid particles to be attached/accumulated inside the tube
  • sensor mounted on the vertical part of the PVC pipe to facilitate the air flow
  • extra part to the PVC pipe added to avoid sensor falling down


The sensors will now be set up across Oslo and operate until June to increase our collective understanding of air quality patterns in the Norwegian capital.

Want to organize your own hackAIR workshop? We’ve got a full workshop toolkit with all instructions for you – or give us a shout, and we might even come by!

Organise your own hackAIR workshop with the hackAIR workshop toolkit

Are you interested in organising a workshop on air pollution and grassroots air quality monitoring –  for your neighbourhood, school, organisation, city council?

Check out the hackAIR workshop toolkit: it is easy to use! And, of course, you can tailor the content to your needs.

In this toolkit, the hackAIR team walks you through the whole process of planning and organising your own hackAIR workshops. All resources are compiled for you – ready to go.

Four modules are available:


The toolkit supports you before, during and after a hackAIR workshop.


During (for each of the four modules):

  • Facilitation guide
  • Presentation slides 
  • Handouts


The workshop modules can be used separately. They can also build on each other, depending on purpose and context. Several teachers have already told us that they are thrilled to bring hackAIR workshops to their classrooms!

Let’s talk. We’d love to hear from you how you are using the hackAIR workshop toolkit!

For support with workshop facilitation or if you would like to invite hackAIR to present at your event: please get in touch with us. We’ll explore together what is possible.

For Norway-based blog readers: you are invited to participate in a workshop organised by hackAIR partner NILU in Oslo on Thursday, March 1. Information about this event is here.

And of course: please send us information about your upcoming events. We will spread the word through our communication channels!

hackAIR highlights – August 2016

hackAIR highlights – August 2016

Interesting articles, reports and news items on air quality, participatory sensing, citizen science and open technology we came across last month. Compiled by @hack_air.


@hack_air organises the workshop Internet for Environmental Monitoring ISEM2016 Florence 12 Sept Registration is free 

hackAIR @hack_air Aug 12

Great examples of how citizens measure #airquality with low-cost technologies, by the related project @MakingSenseEU

hackAIR @hack_air Aug 15

Project: Measuring air pollution from moving vehicles (article in German) #airquality

hackAIR @hack_air Aug 6

The ‘human sensor’ making Manchester’s air pollution visible

hackAIR @hack_air Aug 3

We came across this program to test low cost #airquality #monitoring sensors. Any experiences? @SouthCoastAQMD

Maëlle Salmon ?@ma_salmon Aug 3

@hack_air @SouthCoastAQMD I only know 

Nature News@NatureNews

Researchers must test personal air-quality sensors before we’re flooded w questionable data 

hackAIR @hack_air Aug 18

 #opendata and #airquality: 7 out of 10 most impactful studies use open data. Thanks @sciencerely…

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