A Green Approach to Open Source in Buenos Aires
A spotlight on ETER, a 2018 Global Sprint participant
ETER is a community-built air quality monitor that measures particle pollution in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But gathering environmental data is actually secondary to the project’s mission.
ETER’s chief goal, says open-source advocate and PhD candidate Julieta Arancio, is informing high school teachers about open source. Give a community an open-source air monitor, and they can survey the environment. But teach a community how to build an open-source air monitor, and they’ll hack it, improve it, and dream up additional projects.
“Air quality is kind of an excuse,” Arancio explains. “It’s about building a useful, scientific project as a community.”
Arancio is a member of the R’lyeh Hacklab. There, together with fellow hackers and like-minded organizations, the ETER team works with teachers, high school students, and community members in low-income neighborhoods along the Reconquista River. “They’re highly-populated, very poor urban areas in the outskirts of Buenos Aires” Arancio says.
As a result, educators find themselves teaching high school students who “experience different forms of violence on a daily basis,” Arancio says. It can be challenging for a concept like community science to gain a foothold. But once it does, it has an outsized impact: People can learn and reuse the basics of environmental science and computer science through open-source practices.
“Our intention is that teachers can understand the logic behind open hardware and open science, so they can reproduce it afterward and create community science projects that are relevant and useful for them,” Arancio explains.
And of course there’s also open access to that environmental data — highly valuable information in a city with pressing air quality issues.
ETER plans to deploy five devices across the region as a first stage, and later increase this number. Collaborators from different cities in Argentina have contacted the team to join the project. All code and air quality data is open source. At the Global Sprint, Arancio is hoping to expand the ETER curriculum. The team is in the process of translating their content and also building an educational HTML5 game; they’re seeking coderes, designers, educators, and scientists.
“We need a lot of help — there’s a lot to be done,” Arancio says.