Pittsburgh residents have long complained about air pollution, for good reason. To see: the old steel city “F” rating from American Lung Association.
Rather than just complaining about foul outdoor odors and poisonous air, area residents can now trace the likely origin, predict its path and provide real-time reports that could lead to better enforcement. air quality.
These are all examples of how the Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) Lab at Carnegie Mellon University helps Pittsburgh residents better understand their city through technology.
“The environmental impact in Pittsburgh is significant and has localized hotspots where people’s health is affected,” said Ana Hoffman, Project Director for Air Quality Engagement at CREATE Lab. “We’re able to take their experience and turn it into evidence they can use for advocacy or enforcement, or even just make an informed decision about when it’s safe to exercise indoors. ‘outside.”
air trackerThe Lab’s brand new online interactive tool, launched in June, combines reliable real-time scientific models with air pollution data and weather forecasts to inform users about the air quality they breathe.
Part of CMU robotics instituteCREATE Lab worked with the University of Utah and the Environmental Defense Fund to create Air Tracker, also available in Salt Lake City and Houston.
Air tracker expands the capabilities of the Feel Pittsburgh mobile phone app, another Lab product that, since its launch in 2016, has been using crowdsourcing to track where odors are frequently concentrated and link those odors to poor air quality in those areas or upwind of those areas. areas.
“Smell PGH is easy to use, data is logged in the moment with no delay, and there is also an aspect of transparency,” said Paul Dille, senior research programmer at CREATE Lab. “You can even download data and scent reports and do your own analysis on archive data.”
CREATE Lab has also developed the feather Pittsburgh website to integrate Smell Pittsburgh data with The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather models and air quality monitoring data.
“Air Tracker shows the source area, while Plume shows… where this pollution will travel and move forward in time,” said Amy Gottsegena CREATE Lab research developer.
Beyond environmental justice issues, the Lab uses technology to promote other community efforts.
His Message from me The program, for example, serves as a platform for primary school students to send short messages and photos that inform parents about what they are doing at school, fostering communication and greater parental involvement. Another program, RentHelpPGH, provides housing and eviction risk resources to vulnerable people. And EarthTimea data visualization tool, uses census data and RentHelpPGH inputs to produce visuals that reflect changes in demographics, housing, and housing costs in the Pittsburgh area.
“We have different groups and goals within the lab, but we share a philosophy of building partnerships outside of the university, especially trying to meet local needs,” Hoffman said.
“Ultimately, our lab is about empowering citizens through technology,” Dille said. “I often have the impression that citizens come to us with ideas to work on because they feel isolated or there is a problem and they are not heard.
Now, Hoffman said, the lab and its roughly 15 full-time employees, researchers and software developers are responding to requests from other cities that want to use similar approaches to develop things like 24-hour surveillance systems that can monitor industrial polluters for fugitive emissions and other violations.
“I think the United States Environmental Protection Agency really tried to take note of community efforts like these that have crashed into the air quality world these days,” she said. “It’s an easy, inexpensive and innovative way for people to get involved in community science.