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Environmental Monitoring with Smartphones: Participation at environmental research as motivator for STEM disciplines and citizen participation

Due to the ever increasing functions of smartphones they have develop far beyond their original functionality as a communication device. Their potential as measurement, documentation and analysis devices for science and as an educational tool or medium for teaching and competence development however is not nearly exploited yet. Against the backdrop of the technological development the field of citizen science has emerged in recent years. This approach is also rather relevant to motivate students to do science. Smartphone application provide many opportunities to cooperate interdisziplinarily, international and beyond generations. Centrals societal goals such as environmental protection, sustainability, flood protection, management of commons etc., can only be achieved through active public participation.

In this context smartphones offer great opportunities to foster participation and to motivate students and citizens alike to do science instead of just reading about it. However smartphone apps must be developed which address the needs and interests of citizen and students.

This project aims at developing new approaches to participate environmental discovery and research by addressing two target groups: a) students and b) citizen. Particularly schools are central institutions in strengthening the notion of the importance and enjoyment of contributing to common societal tasks.

The guiding hypothesis of this project is that smartphone aps customized for the needs of the different target groups will 

  1. strengthen the willingness to participate in environmental research projects,
  2. motivates for STEM disciplines,
  3. provides useful data for environmental research and
  4. strengthens by doing science the trust in scientific methods and supports the notion of the importance of science.

To reach these goals we address students of diffenent qualification levels as well as citizen. According to the different target groups the project group combines different expertise with: i) didactic and media competence at elementary and junior high school level (Prof. Bresges, Institute for Physics and its Didactics), ii) environmental research and remote sensing with particular focus on students at senior high school level (Prof. Schneider, Institute of Geography) and iii) Competence in international water management (Prof. Ribbe, ITT, TH Köln).

Here are first prototypes of educational apps covering issues such as:

Project duration: April 2016 - März 2018

Funding: RheinEnergie Stiftung