Janita Tönnissen ,
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Facing a rapidly changing future, we solve two related problems at a time: On the one hand, there are huge demands for a digitally trained workforce. Science and industry are in need of engineers, software developers, or data scientists. 21st-century skills and transdisciplinary competencies especially in the STEM disciplines urgently need to be trained throughout school, university, and other non-formal education as curricula change very slowly creating a large gap. On the other hand, environmental threads have a growing impact on our daily life: climate change, air or light pollution are threats to our health and to various ecosystems. We need more data to learn more about these processes and we need trust and belief in science and a better understanding of the problems to change our habits, our consumer behavior and to act. Both problems relate to each other: more data, a growing data literacy, scientific literacy, and society with 21st-century skills will help us to tackle environmental issues, while a growing group of already environmental aware youths (e.g. Fridays for future) can be motivated to learn digitally if the context is environmental.
We focus on educational technologies (edtech). Our product senseBox is an IoT sensor toolkit for citizen science and education. Its microcontroller and all components (sensors, extensions for communication, and data handling) are tailor-made for these contexts based on over 10 years of experience in this field. senseBox comes with an online visual programming and tutorial interface and an open IoT platform for environmental data, the openSenseMap. All senseBox hardware, software, and educational materials are open source. This setup makes the toolkit easily adaptable and perfectly suitable for settings, where beginners and newbies learn to work with sensors, electronics, learn to code and collect and understand environmental data. senseBox is already in use in hundreds of schools, universities, and other educational institutions to strengthen digital and STEM competencies. The collected data on openSenseMap contributes to science and data literacy and is accessible for everyone.
We believe that our solution has a huge impact on digital education and contributes to empowerment of citizens and science. Our competency to design hardware, software, educational concepts and data products (“full-stack digital environmental education”) is unique and highly scalable as we have seen in the last 3 years. The award would boost our awareness and the prize money would be used for new functionalities for our free and non-profit platform openSenseMap.