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Lawrenceville Neighborhood Residents

Summer 2007
The Canary - Participatory Sensing and Community Robotics

Lawrenceville Workshop Slideshow (Flickr)

14 residents, from tweens to retirees, took part is an 8-week summer Neighborhood Networks workshop at the Stephen Foster Community Center in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. Over the course of the workshop the participants explored and discovered how environmental sensing and robotics could be used to document and address issues in the neighborhood and affect its community.

Issues of traffic safety and opportunities for traffic calming emerged as a dominant theme. A secondary theme was the effect of congestion on the air quality in the neighborhood. Using The Canary platform, participants conceived of and developed a series of devices and scale models of sensing and robotic interventions meant to monitor, report on, and provide feedback to residents concerning the current state of traffic safety and air quality in the neighborhood. At the end of the workshop, participants shared these concepts and prototypes with neighbors, community leaders, a city planner, and researchers at a festive public presentation event.

Project Keywords
participatory sensing, community robotics, rhetoric, new media literacy, technology fluency


One participant used The Canary to create a robotic device that would react to sound levels by dropping a hammer onto the button of a polaroid camera to take a photograph of noisy/fast cars as they drove up and down Main St. This image shows her testing the device (outside of the workshop!) on her front porch on a weekend afternoon.

Another couple created "Boom Box Barney", a robot that covers its ears when noisy/fast cars drive by. Also in this photo are the presentation boards participants used to help communicate their motivation and process to the audience at the final public event.

One participant used The Canary in conjunction with Loopin' Louie: a motorized board game that included a plane that spins on a pivot. The Canary responded to environmental conditions to "play" the game, and in doing so, produced a real-time physical visualization of environmental conditions through the altered trajectory of the airplane.

Here, a young participant created a scale model of the street, that included a "flag" that would drop into the street when speeding cars were detected, forcing them to slow down.

Lawrenceville Workshop Slideshow (Flickr)

External Resources and Media
Pittsburgh City Paper
"Hi, Tech." Link to article

Pittsburgh Tribune
"Project sets residents loose on photo scavenger hunt in Lawrenceville." Link to article

Projects overview