FLOAT Beijing is an interactive, community driven project that uses inexpensive sensors mounted on kites as a vehicle to map and record air quality in Beijing, China. The project engages the community through building sensor modules together via do-it-yourself (DIY) electronics workshops and collaborative design of the kites. Through the playful act of kite flying FLOAT_Beijing has empowered hundreds of Chinese residents to take action and protest current air quality standards, leading to citizen driven improved policies for healthier lives. FLOAT is a tool to collect air quality data and circumvent state controlled channels of information. Residents challenge the invisibility of official data by flying their air quality sensing kites, referred to as "citizen drones", in highly visible public spaces. Through community workshops, participants learn about the health hazards of air pollutants and detection methods using accurate low cost DIY sensors. Kites remain a strong part of Chinese culture which draws in a diverse array of young and old users connecting them through this cultural tradition and new technologies.

FLOAT_Beijing consists of two key elements: open source, customizable air quality sensing kites and community workshops that teach residents how to build pollutant sensors and collect and interpret data. FLOAT modules are designed to be cheap, open source, accessible and reconfigurable without prior electronics knowledge. In the summer of 2012 we hosted three workshops where we provided free materials for community members to assemble their own low-cost air pollution sensing module using locally sourced parts. In collaboration with a traditional kite maker local to Beijing, we designed the kites which the sensors could attached to. At the end of the workshop we took modules built by participants, mounted them on these kites, and flew them in the night sky at a public park, creating a striking spectacle and opening a dialogue between kite flyers, park goers and workshop participants about the issue of air quality in local neighborhoods. As the modules and kites were made by community members, the data gathered felt physically actual to the participants. The tangible display of data is not only more accessible than traditional sensing and mapping methods, it also provides a creative platform for people from different perspectives to engage with. Through FLOAT_Beijing, citizens become active agents in monitoring, and eventually transforming their own environments.

All tutorials and documentation are available for free download on our website. More information at www.f-l-o-a-t.com

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