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.

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