Imagine a bus equipped as a mobile laboratory traveling through rural towns and schools in Chile, reaching remote communities, joining together an entire country through inquire based science education (IBSE). This is ‘Bus ConCiencia’ (a wordplay in Spanish: ‘consciencia’ is the translation of ‘consciousness’ but also ‘with-Science’), a project co-created in 2012 by Fundación Ecoscience and Fundación Ciencia & Vida with the mission of bringing the enjoyment of scientific and technological discoveries to impoverished and vulnerable schools in Chile.
The team of professionals and volunteers of ‘bus conCiencia’ have been training teachers using methodological, didactic and evaluation tools to transform their science classes into opportunities for the students to apply the scientific method, to experience science and engage the curiosity in inquiry-based and hands-on experiments. The lessons held are aligned with learning objectives of each class and the practical activities make use only of recycled and low-cost materials, thus enabling teachers to replicate the scientific experiences in the following years.
During its road trip, the bus also delivers the ‘Nómada 360’ experience, carrying out Science and Geography classes through microdocumentaries recorded on the field by the same students. These videos are then used as educational resources for teaching where, using virtual reality devices, they become research materials in the classroom.
Among the ‘passengers’ who have attended these inspiring initiatives there are more than 20,000 students and 700 primary education teachers, generating a conversation about science as a driver of progress and innovation at different levels of the Chilean society.
‘ConCiencia Magallanes’ is another project recently launched by Ecoscience, in which a new mobile laboratory will travel to the region of Magallanes, promoting equal access to science and bringing the wonders of scientific discovery to the extreme south of Chile. A contest for designing a large format illustration for the laboratory on wheels is open until the 27th of August. Visit the Ecoscience website for more information.
Coloured balloons, bike led lights and coconuts. This is the ‘assembly kit’ for basic hydrology studies developed by a research team of the Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands in collaboration with Myanmar students and technicians from different water departments.
These simple, low-tech (and even edible!) materials have made it possible to understand the interaction between two important rivers in Myanmar and their dynamics after the confluence. The coconut is a perfect scientific drifter and its movement along the river length can be followed also at night by the bike light inside the balloon. Observers positioned on bridges can mark the times in which the different coloured drifters pass, calculate the changes in velocity and at the end draw a model of river water flow. The international team also assembled ‘upgraded’ drifters for georeferenced data points by using a floatable platform made of wood and Styrofoam, a box containing a GPS tracker, data card and cell transmitter, and recycled metal chunks, for a total cost of less than 150 dollars.
The ‘tinkering for data’ and ‘hands-on’ approach can inspire a different mind-set in every scientist, all over the world. The training of a geoscientist group in Myanmar has motivated and enabled them to draw models of river hydraulics, monitor watercourse currents, collect data on water quality and be capable of predicting the spread and the speed of possible contaminations.
This project demonstrates that DIY environmental science can be a valid and alternative approach, especially in countries where there are no resources for expensive equipment and where rivers and waterways represent vital and daily resources that need to be protected.
Hardwarethon is, however, more than just a contest. Initiated in 2014 by six Costa Rican engineers who wanted to empower people to create start-ups utilising all the maker trends and help promote social and economic development in their countries, it is a collaborative inventor’s space for developing new technological ideas, projects and prototypes able to generate innovation.
The participants of this ‘Unique Hardware Hackathon’ are designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, hardware and software enthusiasts and a melting pot of different professional profiles. Individually or in a team, they have 48 straight hours to develop their projects and transform ideas into real and valuable products and/or services. Organised by Imagine XYZ who provide space and offer hardware, software, tools and food, and also offer coaching and guidance needed to concretise each project.
At the end of the contest, all the participants have the opportunity to present their projects to a panel of experts and the best ideas are awarded. All teams interested in the continuation of their projects can eventually receive opportunities to be followed by professionals and start a new business.
From the 4th to the 7th of August, the 4th Hardwarethon will be hosted in Costa Rica, while in October it will be the turn of Colombia and in December Nicaragua, all with the organisational support of Imagine XYZ and the collaboration of the University of Technology (TEC) of Costa Rica, IBM and Cooperative Sulá Batsú.
When we think about microscopes we often imagine bulky, heavy and sophisticated instruments. In 2011, Manu Prakash and Jim Cybulski from Stanford University had an idea: a foldable paper microscope. The original concept was a portable instrument for health-care applications, especially cheap field diagnostics, that developed into an ultra-low-cost and pocket-sized instrument able to broaden scientific access to observations and exploration at the micro-scale for all communities and ages.
In 2014, 50,000 Foldscopes were distributed in 135 countries during a pilot project and Microcosmos, the Foldscope online community, grew as a platform for sharing user’s experiences, observations and images captured through the lens. With community participation many diverse applications are reported: identifying pests in Indian crops, detecting bacteria in water samples and diseases carried by insects, revealing fake drugs, cataloguing arthropods in the Amazon or mapping pollen diversity in a city landscape.
Educational experiences and inspirational projects are also showcased on Microcosmos, for example from the Philippines, where the KIDS Club in Manila received Foldscopes for activities within the project ‘Me and My Environment Program’ aiming to enhance children’s awareness and understanding of environment and nature. Curiosity, explorations and investigations using this simple tool and hands-on approach were stimulated worldwide: from Tanzania and Malaysia to Colombia.
Foldscope is grateful for the generous support by more than 8000 backers through a Kickstarter campaign and also for the partnerships with the Moore Foundation, Simons Foundation, Sigma Aldrich, and the Department of Biotechnology for the Government of India, enabling large-scale distribution.
The project aspires to make science and education more equitable and accessible around the world in addition to inspiring scientific interest in more people and communities by using a simple origami-inspired microscope to keep in the pocket. The goal is to distribute one million Foldscopes by the end of 2017.
Good health depends on people making good choices, which in turn depends on the ability of individuals to critically appraise the reliability of health claims and therefore make well informed decisions. Improving health literacy, especially for economically disadvantaged people, has the potential to reduce unnecessary suffering and avoid wasting resources in ineffective treatments. Recent issues of The Lancet include two interesting articles in this regard.
Firstly, 21 July, Informing health choices in low-resource settings by Laura Gauer Bermudez, Stephanie A Grilo, John S Santelli and Fred M Ssewamala which highlights that ‘the abundance of health information, available via multiple sources, means it is important that individuals are able to critically appraise health claims to make well informed decisions. This is of even greater importance in low-income countries where individuals cannot afford to invest in ineffective treatments. Indeed, public health practitioners have long touted the importance of health education; for example, a variety of well tested and updated curricula to prevent adolescent pregnancy and HIV have shown positive health outcomes across low-income and high-income communities.'
A related health literacy article Effects of the Informed Health Choices primary schoolintervention on the ability of children in Uganda to assess the reliability of claims about treatment effects: a cluster-randomised controlled trial by Allen Nsangi et al was published on 21 May. It illustrates that 'Claims about what improves or harms our health are ubiquitous. People need to be able to assess the reliability of these claims.’
The Informed Health Choices project, designed in 2016 for primary school children (aged 10-12 years) in the central region of Uganda, was based on building critical thinking rather than rote learning, in a situation with large student to teacher ratios and few resources available. The article presents the results of the intervention in the 60 schools involved who received educational resources (i.e., textbooks, exercise books, teacher’s guide, poster, activity cards and a song) for lessons addressing concepts essential to assess claims about treatment effects. The use of these resources significantly improved the ability of children to access claims by nearly 50%, confirming that is possible to teach critical appraisal on a large scale and in a low-income country. Moreover, learning to think critically about treatment claims can prepare children to contribute to well informed health policies as citizens, to make personal and familial health choices in addition to lay foundations for future learning.
Both articles are available open access (free of charge).
Informing health choices in low-resource settings
Laura Gauer Bermudez, Stephanie A Grilo, John S Santelli, Fred M Ssewamala, The Lancet, Volume 390, Issue 10092, 336 – 338, 22 July 2017
Effects of the Informed Health Choices primary school intervention on the ability of children in Uganda to assess the reliability of claims about treatment effects: a cluster-randomised controlled trial
Nsangi Allen et al., 21 May 2017 (Additional information on the project website: Informed Health Choices)
HIFA argues that the health impact of national and global emergencies depends largely on the degree to which individuals, communities, nations and supranational bodies are adequately informed. This thematic discussion aims to answer three fundamental questions: to what extent are current Library and Information Services (LIS) meeting the information needs of different user groups in different contexts, where are the gaps and what are the priorities for future action?
The following themes and questions have been drafted:
Week 1 will cover the scope and remit of the HIFA LIS Project and how participants can be involved. The findings from the PHE/HIFA Evidence Briefing will be presented and identification of additional papers and publications invited.
Week 2 will continue by asking: What do we know about the availability and use of reliable information for global health emergencies, disasters and disease outbreaks? What works and what doesn't?
Week 3 will ask participants Do you (or your organisation) have any real-life experience in dealing with an emergency/disaster/outbreak? Were you able to access/provide the information needed? What were the challenges and lessons learned?
Week 4 and Week 5 topics are to be decided
Join HIFA to explore these and other questions
The Africa Prize encourages ambitious and talented sub-Saharan African engineers from all disciplines to apply their skills to develop scalable solutions to local challenges, highlighting the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and economic development. Crucial commercialisation support is awarded to a shortlist of innovative applicants through a six-month period of training and mentoring.
Following this period of mentorship, finalists are invited to present at an event held in Africa and a winner is selected to receive £25,000 along with runners-up, who are each awarded £10,000.
Being the feature conference of Global Media & Information Literacy (MIL) Week 24-27 October 2017, to be hosted by the University of Jamaica, Kingston, the conference will explore how stakeholders interpret ways of educating citizens in MIL in all types of environments.
The programme will focus on the global status of research and practice, in addition to the significance, of MIL as a way to transform present and future information and learning environments. The aim is to build more bridges between learning outside of the classroom and learning inside the classroom. In addition, the conference will contribute to the evolution of learning as a process of social change, which fosters human rights, online and offline, and which constructs a new citizenship identity based on critical civic participation and intercultural dialogue.
Launched in 2014, the Global Learning XPRIZE aims to extend the premise that children with basic literacy skills have the potential to lift themselves out of poverty.
Over the course of 9 months (1 May 2016 to January 2017) the competition has challenged teams from around the world to develop open source scalable software solutions that will enable children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic within a defined competition field-testing period.
XPrize hopes that by enabling a child to learn how to learn, that each child is given opportunity - to live a healthy and productive life, to provide for their family and their community, as well as to contribute toward a peaceful, prosperous and abundant world.
Out of an initial field of 198 registered teams (at April 2015) semi-finalist solutions were selected for a week-long test with children in Tanzania. Out of these, eleven semi-finalists were announced on 21 June, including one team from South Africa and one from India, and the teams now have one month to update and finalize their solutions.
In July, the judging panel will select 5 finalist teams to proceed to the final round of the competition, where their solutions will be field-tested across a minimum of 100 villages in Tanzania, reaching 3000 children (ages approximately 7-10). At the end of the competition in the field, the team whose solution enables the greatest proficiency gains in reading, writing and arithmetic will receive the Grand Prize. However, all of the top 5 Finalist solutions, including the winner’s, will be open-sourced to the world.