Data is only as useful as the factual stories it can tell. For people to be able to evaluate and create data-driven stories, they need to understand the fundamentals of how data is used, who uses it, and when to trust data-driven arguments.  Open Data/Open Minds (ODOM) supports the development of this fundamental understanding through visualizing and personalizing data with paper, craft, and computation.

The work reflects our commitment to open data and supporting data literacy as a competency for communities – we see it as part of an emerging civic infrastructure for education. Working with craftsperson and CS instructor Natalie Freed, we’ve prototyped a series of a connected notebook projects using wifi and wireless dev boards from Particle.io and Adafruit.com.

It's notable and inspiring - as a model of collaboration and iteration - that Natalie has been hands-on and directly responsible for all the builds on this page. From our first collaboration with her on Program Your Pages, Working with Microcontrollers in the Hack Your Notebook series, to her beautiful, hand-made book, the "Tidal Notebook," to the list of builds you'll find below, Natalie has been a source of inspiration and ingenuity for each of them. Look her up. You'll be glad you did (see: nataliefreed.com). 

tidal notebook

The Tidal Notbook, our first demonstration of paper, electronics, data and connectivity, records the height of the tide in real-time, pulling information from the internet into the notebook. A set of parallel circuits register the height of the tide whenever the circuit system — and the notebook — is  on a network. Read about it in a pair of of blog posts from NEXMAP’s first project manager and learning designer Jennifer Dick. Here she describes the making of the Tide Notebook and here she documents her own hacking with a rechargeable battery from a mobile phone. As Natalie put it when were were thinking through our approach to the proof-of-concept, "What would happen if you could pull the internet into your notebook?" 

Handmade book by Natalie Freed. Topic: San Francisco Bay, including maps, reflection, design ideas, technical instructions on the use of the Spark Core from Particle.io; the height of the tide is pulled from NOAA.gov and a monitoring station just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.


   Early Bird or a Night Owl? When are you most creative?   A poll developed for our work with the Fluency Project at Carnegie Mellon’s CREATE LAB and shared at Bay Area Maker Faire 2017.

Early Bird or a Night Owl? When are you most creative? A poll developed for our work with the Fluency Project at Carnegie Mellon’s CREATE LAB and shared at Bay Area Maker Faire 2017.

Data Gathering with Connected Paper

Proof-of-concept

Our work on data literacy led us to this proof of concept for paper as an input interface to support the development of problem statements, research protocols, and the integration of craft with edtech, and applications to support visualization work and physical computing.

Building on the skills and understanding in the Hack Your Notebook series, here a circuit system on a paper template is used to gather binary, observational data. Results are collected in a Google Sheet.  In addition to the Particle Electron for wireless connectivity, we use Chibitronics Chibi chip and its flex PCB to carry signal and maintain contact between the paper and the electronic components.


City Dashboard

Crafting Local Data Stories

The prototype work below pulls  public feeds into a pop-up format. This version for Austin, TX displays temperature, time of day, traffic levels downtown, and AQI. Curiously, information on pollen levels — heavily documented and a major concern for Austin residents — was not available for integration through an open API. Why would that be? These are the kinds of questions we want to address and explore with Open Data/Open Minds.

  Left:  Pop-up mechanics, LED setup for temperature values, and  wireless connections via Particle Electron.  Center:  Draft illustration of culminating project (with LEDs, pop-up and servo) for the city of Portland, OR in Hack Your Notebook #4 Automate Your Ideas, Working with Servos.  Right:  Pre-assembly for Austin, TX data dashboard with Congress St. bridge in the foreground.

Left: Pop-up mechanics, LED setup for temperature values, and  wireless connections via Particle Electron. Center: Draft illustration of culminating project (with LEDs, pop-up and servo) for the city of Portland, OR in Hack Your Notebook #4 Automate Your Ideas, Working with Servos. Right: Pre-assembly for Austin, TX data dashboard with Congress St. bridge in the foreground.


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Moz Open Leaders Program

NEXMAP at Mozfest, London, October 27-29

This fall David Cole and Elisabeth Sylvan were accepted for Mozilla’s Open Leaders Program, “a cohort of project leads fueling the Internet Health Movement.” Participants receive mentorship and training through the Mozilla Network in a 12-week online program on working open. Open Data/Open Minds is our lead project — we’re thrilled to be part of the program. Follow us on twitter @sfnexmap for updates from Lis from the festival. She’ll be on site at Ravensbourne in London sharing the work in talks, gallery sessions and demonstrations. Learn more about the the project on our github page.


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"Scratch Paper" DIY Prototype and API Integration for Open Data

This setup above is handling a live data feed from AirNow.gov for air quality in West Oakland in the 94615 zip code. The simple paper circuit on the left represents a low-to-high "bar chart" of sorts, with one LED representing "good" air quality and five LEDs illuminated equalling a "hazardous" readout.

The full kit here includes: a Chibitronics' Chibi Chip for programming and displaying an array of LEDs; a Chibi Scope for serial readout of text information from AirNow.gov -- a real-time "screen" display, sharing information available via their API; a wifi Arduino board from Adafruit, their "Feather" board, carrying the code for reading the "94615" zipcode detail from Airnow.gov; a phone for tethering wifi connectivity to the build.  Power is provided via the Chibi Chip and a USB cable connection to a power source.

Think of this as a deconstructed circuit system that's exposing elements of a basic IoT system, which are often "black-boxed." Next steps for our team include: designing the activity sequences and the paper circuitry templates that will let collaborators build their own demonstrations. Priorities for us include creating a browser-based tool for connecting your phone to a wifi board (think: entering your "hotspot" password) and selecting a dedicated data string by topic and location from a public data source so your output can be crafted into a personalized, local display.