Re-engineering education was more than a mission for a group of researchers at the Institute of Geoinformatics at the University of Münster. It was a promise. More than a decade ago, they created a toolset that enables people to learn more about technology by merging their experience and knowledge. From this, the German start-up re:edu was founded as a spin-off of the Institute for Geoinformatics. It isn‘t selling environmental gauges – it is providing a solution called senseBox to satisfy our constant desire to understand the nature around us.
As open education isn’t limited to students, re:edu had to focus on a DIY approach, breaking up the complexity of the technology at the same time. In addition to that, they needed to guarantee correct and reliable data within a given accuracy range. These goals have been met by removing unnecessary complexity. For example, the senseBox requires no soldering – everything can be stacked or plugged together. Classic line-by-line coding was replaced with a graphical programming interface called Blockly, which makes programming feel more like a puzzle rather than coding and allows more people to be addressed. As a side benefit, removing the complexity also minimised time-wasting errors or failures.
Modules instead of confusion
Unlimited possibilities are great, but when it comes to education, one needs to focus. Because of that, re:edu decided to establish unique extension boards instead of an all-in-one board. For example, there is either WiFi, Ethernet, LoRa or card storage available. The same goes for the various sensors such as temperature, air pressure, humidity, illuminance and UV-intensity, dust, cloudiness, loudness or wind speed.
We all love the internet, where information about almost everything can be found. By backing up their hardware packages with good and easy to understand learning material and workshops, the last accessibility gap can be closed. Materials such as flashcards allow ad-hoc study progress. With open education at its heart, re:edu has a keen interest to qualify teachers, so they can integrate the technology into their classes.
What is around you?
Environmental data has a geo-localisation by nature. Since the beginning of constant weather recording, every temperature measured was tied to a specific position. While stationary devices can be positioned using the street number or map coordinates, the tracking of moving devices cannot be solved without the use of GNSS. By connecting a GNSS module based on the ublox CAM-M8Q multi-GNSS module, a whole new range of applications becomes possible. This way, trajectories with environmental data can be visualised on the freely available online platform. This enables users to perform measurements on vehicles like cars or bikes.
Open means open
Re:edu is very transparent about the involved components in their senseBox, knowing that the hardware itself isn’t about their USP, so parts of the Arduino universe are used. An ARM Cortex M0+ provides the power to foster the applications without draining the battery or running out of memory. Interfaces use I1C, UART or digital I/Os and robust JST-plugs. Via the XBee socket UART and SPI modules can be attached. The senseBox (www. sensebox.de/go) can be set up within a minute by connecting it to a computer via USB cable.
Galileo for better signal quality
The usage of Galileo is one of the key aspects of having a reliable GNSS positioning event when signal shadowing is an issue. Without accurate positioning, many upcoming challenges could not be tackled.