Kickstarter campaign helps citizen scientists map refugee camp from above

citizen science refugee burj
Claudia Martinez Mansell
A young team of citizen scientists from a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon just got a little help from a few hundred backers on Kickstarter.

The campaign began as an effort to produce maps of the Bourj Al Shamali refugee camp, while giving the citizen scientists a chance to share their experiences with those abroad. After an initial influx of support, the project raised its goal, and then expanded to include signposts and the camp’s first community garden.

“The camp residents know the camp very well,” Kickstarter campaign organizer Claudia Martinez Mansell tells Digital Trends, “so a map in this sense will not help them.”

Mansell has been working in and around Bourj Al Shamali for years. She says the maps are intended to help engage nonresidents and offer a way to visualize the camp from the outside. “I think it will be used a lot for advocacy,” Mansell explains. “At the same time, the camp is getting organized, so visually, it will help to think of certain issues in the camp spatially.”

Bourj Al Shamali was established as a temporary camp for Palestinian refugees in 1948. Nearly 70 years later, more than 23,000 registered refugees call this makeshift camp home. Fifty percent of them are younger than 18, Mansell said.

Inspired by Public Lab, a young group of these residents began balloon-mapping Bourj Al Shamali last year, capturing more detail than what can be found through sources like Google. Accurate maps do exist, says Mansell, but they aren’t made public for the residents to review.

As the cameras took to the sky, the handlers on the ground faced a handful of obstacles. Rambunctious youngsters sometimes shot at the balloons, and outsiders confiscated a camera’s memory card. But the team’s efforts earned them support from across the oceans — including invitations to speak at Harvard University and a Public Lab event in Louisiana in November.

“It has been really moving for me,” Mansell says of the of the invitations and encouragement from Kickstarter. “Many friends came out to support it, so I was very touched. Then it is also exciting when you see people who you do not know come out to support the project.

“It has been terrific and the team in the camp have been amazed at how people from so many countries have responded and are supporting our project, and that they care about these issues.”

The Kickstarter campaign ended today with $16,830 pledged — well above the $12,500 goal. With that money, Bourj Al Shamali will hopefully see its first public green space and finalized maps, as the three citizen scientists travel to the United States to share their stories.

Features

Cities looking to get smart take a lesson from America’s largest shopping mall

From Disney World to the Mall of America, public venues are becoming microcosms for smart city projects. We dove into both, to show what government officials can learn – and what you can expect from your city.
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to endangered cats

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Outdoors

Drink what nature provides with the best water purifiers

Looking for reliable water purification? Staying hydrated is important, especially when you are hiking or camping far from civilization. Check out our picks of the best water purifiers for your camp, backpack, or pocket.
Emerging Tech

Rise of the Machines: Here’s how much robots and A.I. progressed in 2018

2018 has generated no shortage of news, and the worlds of A.I. and robotics are no exception. Here are our picks for the most exciting, game changing examples of both we saw this year.
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe captures first image from within the atmosphere of the sun

NASA has shared the first image from inside the atmosphere of the sun taken by the Parker Solar Probe. The probe made the closest ever approach to a star, gathering data which scientists have been interpreting and released this week.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA's InSight mission to Mars has commemorated its arrival by posting a selfie. The selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera.
Emerging Tech

Researchers create a flying wireless platform using bumblebees

Researchers at the University of Washington have come up with a novel way to create a wireless platform: using bumblebees. As mechanical drones' batteries run out too fast, the team made use of a biology-based solution using living insects.
Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous images show storms and cloud formations in the atmosphere of Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission arrived at Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data since then. NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.
Emerging Tech

Beautiful image of young planets sheds new light on planet formation

Researchers examining protoplanetary disks -- the belts of dust that eventually form planets -- have shared fascinating images of the planets from their survey, showing the various stages of planet formation.
Emerging Tech

Delivery robot goes up in flames while out and about in California

A small meal-delivery robot suddenly caught fire in Berkeley, California, on Friday. The blaze was quickly tackled and no one was hurt, but the incident is nevertheless a troubling one for the fledgling robot delivery industry.
Emerging Tech

High-tech dancing robot turns out to be a guy in a costume

A Russian TV audience was impressed recently by an adult-sized "robot" that could dance and talk. But when some people began pointing out that its actions were a bit odd, the truth emerged ... it was a fella in a robot suit.