LOOP LABS

URBAN CITIZEN SCIENCE PROGRAMME
Loop Labs is a non-profit organisation
founded by Nicky Gavron in 2013 with the
objective of solving urban challenges with
the power of communities.

Nicky is the former Deputy Mayor of
London, a London-wide Assembly Member
and Chair of its Planning Committee.

Leading London’s response to climate
change, she introduced policies and
programmes to reduce C02 emissions
across energy, water, waste and transport.
Her initiatives include establishing the
London Climate Change Agency and the
C40: CITIES Climate Leadership Group.

Increasing urbanisation creates new
challenges for cities like London. From
transportation and safety to resource
management and air quality these
challenges affect the lives of everyday
citizens. Nicky started Loop Labs to
provide Londoners with a greater sense of
agency in the design, policy making and
management of their city.

Working with digital strategist, Katz Kiely,
early in 2014 Loop Labs designed and
developed “Walk the Talk” in partnership
with Intel and with funding from the
Technology Strategy Board. The project
inspired children to design a video game
that encouraged a greater awareness of the
benefits of walking. This was used together
with a mobile tracking app that enabled
young players to monitor their families
walking.

In 2015 Loop Labs is working with
educational theorist, Graham BrownMartin, who designed the “Urban Citizen
Science Programme” funded by Lambeth
Council. The programme is deploying more
than 30 air quality sensors and 100 activity
trackers amongst homes and families in the
London Borough of Lambeth. These
devices are being used as part of an
ongoing awareness and behavioural

Air quality is a significant problem in urban cities
where over 8% of deaths in London for the over-25s
are linked. Poor air quality is shown to have a
permanent effect on the development of childrens
lungs and is responsible for thousands of premature
births.

Case study
Our programme begins in primary schools with groups of children aged 9-11 years
who are invited to participate as “citizen scientists” recruited to assist a
mysterious professor after his grown-up scientists have gone on strike. An initial
recruitment meeting is called with the children and their parents/carers where they
are issued with their citizen scientist lab coats, air quality sensors and activity
The AQ sensors and trackers are for
the children and their family to keep
after use but first they are taken home
and the sensors connected to the
internet so that they can provide a
constant stream of data relating to the
air quality around the child’s home. The
activity trackers are worn by the
parents and report daily walking and
other health related data directly to the
wearers smart phone and the internet.
This data is collected daily by the child
who can also review it at school over
the internet.

invited to participate in an evening of
citizen science. Here the children
recruit new community members
willing to participate in the
investigation using the sensors and
tracking devices.

The result is that the community
becomes more aware of the issues
around air quality and walking whilst
they own the data and information they
are creating and sharing. By installing a
significant number of AQ sensors

As with other social aspects of the
Internet this programme becomes ever
more useful the more people who
participate. As more AQ sensors are
deployed over time the granularity of
information improves to a point where
identifying AQ trouble spots or cleaner
air routes for walking become possible.

We wonder if this understanding will
inform future behaviour and decision
making at the community level as well
as a greater understanding and

Flipping the science lab from the
classroom to the home using the
“Internet of Things” means that the
children can conduct experiments out
of the classroom but can also discuss
their findings with their classmates
during school time.

By involving parents and carers in the
investigation the programme catalyses
a conversation and awareness at home
as well as in school where the children
and their parents are co-learners about
air quality. The activity trackers provide
an opportunity for the children and the
wearers to understand the link
between physical activity, well-being
and air quality where they discover the
benefits of walking over driving,
especially for short journeys.

After 4 weeks of experimentation and
investigation the children and parents
host a community evening where
members of the wider community are

citizens are able to have meaningful
conversations about air quality in the
area and consider ways for
improvement.

engagement with policy making. Here
at Loop Labs, we certainly hope so!

www.looplabs.org

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