I now teach kids at the Hong Kong Harbour School. It is the first time I have taken a long term commitment (2 years) to teach classes to the young, before I was only teaching at master level in Europe. It’s not a smaller challenge. I have to teach differently. I have to explain things from scratch with non-technical words. I have to be super articulate and clear. And more importantly it’s got to be directly relevant to them, meaningful and rewarding at every step.
They will ask questions that will keep me awake at night. They deserve answers, but more importantly, they need to develop the capacity to inquire and propose their own answers, have their own opinions and strategies to affect change to society.
For the first class, I have prepared a slideshow with many videos. I have watched many crazy and inadequate videos and these are the most informative ones. More about environmental and marine radioactivity coming soon.
Yuen Long farm an hour from the sea may not seem like the ideal location for a boat workshop, but it’s where French- Japanese environmentalist and inventor Cesar Harada is based.
That’s where he is designing and building unique robotic boats with shape-shifting hulls and the ability to clean up oil spills. The hull changes shape to control the direction “like a fish”, Harada, 30, says. It is effectively a second sail in the water, so the boat has a tighter turning circle and can even sail backwards.“I hope to make the world’s most manoeuvrable sailboat,” he says. “The shape-shifting hull is a real breakthrough in technology. Nobody has done it in a dynamic way before.”Harada hopes one day a fleet of fully automated boats will patrol the oceans, performing all sorts of clean-up and data- collection tasks, such as radioactivity sensing, coral reef imaging and fish counting.
Asia could benefit greatly because, Harada says, the region has the worst pollution problems in the world. Yet the story of his invention started in the Gulf of Mexico, following one of the most devastating environmental disasters in recent years – the 2010 BP oil spill. Harada was working in construction in Kenya when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hired him to lead a team of researchers to develop a robot that could clean up the oil.
He spent half his salary visiting the gulf and hiring a fisherman to take him to the oil spill. More than 700 repurposed fishing boats had been deployed to clean up the slick, but only 3 per cent of the oil was collected.
It then dawned on him that because the robot he was developing at MIT was patented, it could only be developed by one company, which would take a long time, and it would be so expensive that it could only be used in rich countries.
This realisation made Harada quit his “dream job” to develop an alternative oil-cleaning technology: something cheap, fast and open-source, so it could be freely used, modified and distributed by anyone, as long as they shared their improvements with the community. He moved to New Orleans to be closer to the spill, and taught local residents how to map the oil with cameras attached to balloons and kites.
Harada set up a company to develop his invention, originally based in New York before moving to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and then San Francisco. Now, Harada says he will be based in Hong Kong for at least the next five years. He built his workshop and adjoining office in Yuen Long himself in five months on what used to be a concrete parking space covered with an iron roof after acquiring the site in June last year.
He first visited Hong Kong last year while sailing around the world on a four-month cruise for entrepreneurs and students. It is the perfect location for his ocean robotics company, he says, because the city’s import-export capabilities and the availability of electronics in Shenzhen are the best in the world. Also, Hongkongers are excited about technology, setting up a business is easy, taxes are low and regulations flexible, he says.
He named the boat Protei after the proteus salamander, which lives in the caves of Slovenia. “Our first boat really looked like this ugly, strange, blind salamander,” Harada
says with a laugh. He later discovered that Proteus is the nameofaGreekseagod–oneof the sons of Poseidon, who protects sea creatures by changing form, and the name stuck. “He is the shepherd of the sea,” Harada says.
Harada built the first four prototypes in a month by hacking and reconfiguring toys in his garage, and invented the shape-shifting hull to pull long objects. A cylinder of oil- absorbent material is attached to the end of the boat that soaks up oil like a sponge. The shape-shifting hull allows the jib – or front sail – and the main sail to be at different angles to the wind, allowing the boat to sail upwind more efficiently, intercepting spilled oil that is drifting downwind. “Sailing is an ancient technology that we are abandoning. But it’s how humans colonised the entire earth, so it’s a really efficient technology,” Harada says. “The shape-shifting hull is a superior way of steering a wind vessel.”
The prototype is now in its 11th generation. The hull, which measures about a metre long, looks and moves like a snake’s spine. Harada built 10 prototypes this month, which are sold online to individuals and institutions who want to develop the technology for their own uses. He has collaborators in South Korea, Norway, Mexico and many other countries. “The more people copy us, the better the technology becomes,” he says. Harada, who describes himself as an environmental entrepreneur, says investors have offered to buy half of the company, but he has turned them all down. “They do not understand the environmental aspect of the business,” he says. “They want to build big boats and sell them as expensively as possible.”
Harada has a bigger vision for Protei. He wants to create a new market of automated boats. He hopes that one day they will replace the expensive, manned ocean-going vessels that are currently used for scientific research. He says one of these ships can cost tens of millions of dollars, and a further US$4,000 worth of fuel is burned every day. That does not include the cost of a captain, three or four crew members, a cook and a team of researchers.The expense of these research missions is one of the reasons we know so little about the ocean, Harada says. We have explored only 5 per cent of the ocean, even though it covers 70 per cent of the earth. “We know more about Mars than we know about the ocean.”
He notes that there is no gravity in space, so we can send up huge satellites. But submarines that have tried to explore the depths of the ocean have been crushed by the pressure of the water. Ships are not free from risk, either.“Seafaring is the most dangerous occupation on earth,” Harada says. More people die at sea than on construction sites. An automated boat would also prevent researchers from being exposed to pollution and radiation. Harada’s Japanese family live 100km from Fukushima, and he will go back there for a third time in October to measure the underwater radioactivity near the site. Although he admits to being scared, “it’s the biggest release of radioactive particles in history and nobody is really talking about it”.
Harada is also working with students from the Harbour School, where he teaches, to develop an optical plastic sensor. “We talk a lot about air pollution, but water pollution is also a huge problem,” he says. He says industries in countries such as India and Vietnam have developed so fast and many environmental problems in the region have not been addressed. “In Kerala [India], all the rivers have been destroyed. The rivers in Kochi are black like ink and smell of sewage. Now it’s completely impossible to swim or fish in them.”
Hong Kong has not been spared, either. Harada joins beach clean-ups on Lamma Island and says even months after an oil spill and government clean-up last year, they found crabs whose lungs were full of oil. He says locals fish and swim in the water and there are mussels on the seabed that are still covered in oil.
“The problem is as big as the ocean,” Harada says. But he believes if man made the problem, man can remedy it. The son of Japanese sculptor Tetsuo Harada, he grew up in Paris and Saint Malo and studied product and interactive design in France and at the Royal College of Art in London. But he believes that at an advanced level, art and science become indistinguishable.
“I don’t see a barrier between science and art at the top level,” he says. “It’s where imagination meets facts.” firstname.lastname@example.org
We are currently looking
for an industrial space by the water in Hong Kong
boat buyers (small 1m unit, 4m large autonomous unit for data collection, 7.m for 2 sailors leisure)
Intern Electric Engineer
Intern Software developer on Android, with interest in robotics
Intern Aeronautical / Naval egineer interested in biocomposites
What if we designed a new kind of “maker space” — a space that isn’t just for putting pieces together, but also for seeing and understanding a project’s behaviour in powerful ways?
– seeing inside
– seeing across time
– seeing across possibilities
“I think people need to work in a space that moves them away from the kinds of non-scientific thinking that you do when you can’t see what you’re doing — moves them away from blindly following recipes, from superstitions and rules of thumb — and moves them towards deeply understanding what they’re doing, inventing new things, discovering new things, contributing back to the global pool of human knowledge.”
Presented at the EG conference on May 2, 2014.
Art by David Hellman.
Bret Victor — http://worrydream.com
I really enjoyed watching this brilliant video by Bret Victor. Thanks Stewart McKenzie for sharing this on the Hong Kong HackJam group on facebook. I have been thinking a lot about these “issues” because I build robots (and typically the workshop building and buy the tools too). For the moment, my robots are pretty dumb, but I imagine the day they “become smarter” it will become increasingly difficult to understand them, especially if they operate far from sight, in the ocean. Hopefully the dashboard does not have to be a massive control room, but maybe just a few screen (a dashboard), or something more immersive that -hopefully- many people could afford – because we ought to make a fleet!
Recently I started teaching to young kids about robotics, hacking, environmental sensing. We started building a workbench, and just a few days ago the sensor part of the robot. In our last class the students were divided in 2 teams, one is “electro-mechanics”, the other is “electronics and software”. I insisted we have a 3rd group that would be “environment and protocol” but no kid wanted to join. Because they perceived that the environment and protocol is not a “thing”. In fact the environment is the “thing” we work in. It determines, it is the conditions of all the experiments and cannot be overlooked.
I believe most of what is described in this video to exist in many places where people do “experimental physics“. I was very fortunate to be involved in such environment where we study things by “seeing” them. But I must stress that we SENSE more than we SEE. Seeing is merely just one of the way we document the experiments we conduct. In fact putting the emphasis and naming the whole system a “seeing space” is rather misleading I feel. I believe we have passed the “society of the spectacle”, and we are in the making of the “sensing” (with the internet of things), and perhaps one day “thinking” and “feeling” society. But that’s another debate.
Contrary to what Bret Victor suggested, the reconfigurable house was aimed to be cheap. I really want to see a “Seeing space” made with low cost HD webcams, because hey, they do exist very much. The reconfigurable house was made with hundreds of extremely cheap sensors hacked out of toys. The overall aesthetics was perhaps a “vibrant and healthy mess” but I believe that the aesthetics of the space were inviting to make and experiment / sense.
I have seen several sterile lab spaces and unproductive messy hackerspaces but I claim these are nothing but caricatures. Some tidy labs and messy hackerspace do awesome work, the opposite also exist. I feel the video presents a space that is a little bit too tidy and expensive to be “truly” creative. If you have to be too careful when you make a move, it’s hard to “move fast and break things“. But maybe it was required to “sell” the project – or make newbies / investors feel more comfortable about the whole project – I would understand. It is hard to find that balance of tidiness and transient creative energy but I believe it is also our responsibility and discipline to share the aesthetics that most likely will help science emerge from tinkering. Thanks Bret Victor. I look forward to see your sensing space come to life :)
In a nutshell and richly illustrated :
The ocean have millions of tons of plastic, but it tend to be broken down so small, the naked eye cannot see it.
Currently we are using large extremely expensive research vessels to drag plankton manta trawlers and we count plastic bits manually under a microscope. It is slow, expensive and potentially dangerous.
I suggest we use a machine similar to an LOPC (Laser Optical Particle Counter) that marine biologist use to count plankton, but refit them to measure plastic. This machine could be installed at the bow of ship. A vertical stack of them would allow the continuous collection of plastic as well as plankton data, at different depth. I insist, we would not collect physical samples, only data. This system would provide near-real-time plankton / plastic qualification and quantification, much higher resolution, and all of that without human repetitive labour. I believe that such installation at the bow of a ship would be safer and attractive since the ship could sail much faster than with a trawler. The idea is to make the system lightweight and low cost so it could be mounted not only on research vessels, but on any type of vessel becoming a sort of Ship of Opportunity.
In the document I outline a roadmap to develop the sensor, from the lab, to the river, to the ocean. I am aware that few micro-plastic debris can be found in rivers, mostly large debris that end in the ocean where they are broken down with the action of UV, salt, the mechanical action of wave and animal bites.
Step 1 : recreate the elements of study and the conditions.
Step 2 : create a “loop” where water flows carrying plastic debris as well as plankton and contaminated plastic debris.
Step 3 : Get out of the lab and test the counter in an open channel.
Step 4 : try out a stack of channels in the open sea.
Step 5 : map the data.
This is a very exciting topic for me and I look forward to update you about our progress – that will be logged on Scoutbots.com.
I should say as a preface is that I am far from being rich (in money) but I am rich in ideas about how one can make money from Open Hardware. Just a few minutes ago I sent this email to an academic friend of mine who is trying to convince his senior University staff how Open Hardware can be profitable. I am sharing this for myself as research note, but also because it might help other people doing Open Hardware work to explain what they do, and how they might sustain it. The technology I am commenting about is Protei, the Open Hardware, Shape-Shifting Sailing robot to explore and protect the ocean.
A/ how you make your profit based on open source hardware and software?
On top of my head writing in the MTR (Hong Kong train system) I can give you a few short term ways to profit from an open source technology.
Open Hardware does not mean free :
We make and sell boats. Either on demand, small scale, middle or large scale manufacturing
We can operate boats and replace multi-million operations
We can sale software, on the boats and server side
We sell services at sea (communication, sampling etc)
We collect data that we can sell
We can analyze data and sell that to policy makers or other labs
We can do consulting work to improve other boats
We keep inventing new things thanks to the community inspiration
We get money from donations because people understand this is an amazing technology and what it does for the world
We get funding from private sources, like sponsorship
We get funding from the public state, because we do it for the general interest
We get to teach about the new tech
Oh! … And we can get paid to do the research :)
On the long term open source could mean that other people fork your technology – transforming your technology / product into a market.
Product -> Market. So suddenly you would benefit from people improving on your work, and you can improve of theirs.
I like to think about it this way :
You can become a leader by taking an unfair advantage and keeping it
You stay a leader by fairly inviting everyone to enjoy the advantage you found.
So it is not about developing a cool technology but also about building a vibrant community around the technology. In fact even if you started it, the community will overtake the technology and make it its own. That is particularly true about science and innovation. The more people would cite you, extend your work, improve it the more valuable you will be recognize as the source.
In the industrial context the more people copy, the more influence. The history of Arduino is a great example of that, now you can find hundreds of copycat, their brand is thriving more than ever. Your competition becomes essentially your best advertising. And they automatically become part of your community and you can learn from their improvement. It is not about control, it is about having access and making sense of the information. Building the intelligence nexus, is how you stay the leader in your area. We cannot control the boat makers, but we can become the resource where everyone goes to, and share their improvements and new ideas.
Today, I was really enthralled to witness the launch of a lunchbox in (near) space by the Hong Kong Space Group, going after the Global Space Balloon Challenge. The balloon started flight around 11:00 and descended at around 13:00. Here is a short video of the launch :
“There is an emerging identity crystallizing on our planet. People are increasingly considering their personal impact in a global light. We call this identity the global citizen. The 100 people you will learn about here capture what it means to be a global citizen in 2014. They belong to a community of doers that you too can be part of. But where to start? The first step is asking yourself what kind of doer you are. Inspired by the 100 members of the fourth annual GOOD 100 and the personality test published 52 years ago by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, we’ve created a 100-question quiz that will align your work with one of 16 “doer personality types.” Thus, as you make your way through the site, you won’t just be learning about 100 global citizens—hopefully you’ll be learning about 101.”
To celebrate and share the best of us with the GOOD community in Hong Kong, we are holding a free workshop :
Time : May 3rd, 15:00 – 17:30
Location : Paperclip co-working space, 3/F, Nam Wo Hong Building, 148 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, +852 3586 2888
The workshop leaders will be Rachel Chan (also GOOD 100) and myself, on the invitation of GOOD HK chapter representative Maggie Lin.
“Cesar will lead the life-mapping exercise. Using himself as a case study, he will guide you to draw your entire life on a piece of paper: connecting your personal goals to that of others, and to what the world needs. Then Rachel will share tips and resources as to how your aspirations can be realized with her rich experience in doing good and doing well.”
I just met with Rachel Chan and I can guarantee she’s amazing. From GOOD 100 page :
“Rachel Chan is on a mission to light a fire beneath Asia’s business sector. In the growing landscape of social entrepreneurship in Asia, Chan is leading the charge to inspire young people to build innovative and socially positive startups. She believes that businesses should embrace the competitive and sustainable advantages of doing good, rather than acting out of social obligation or regarding it as a necessary burden. In 2007, Chan founded InnoFoco, a holistic social-branding agency in Hong Kong that helps startups maintain both their competitive edge and their commitment to social good. In 2010, InnoFoco partnered with the Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Culture to found Make a Difference, or MaD, an annual conference that brings together 1,500 young people who come from all over Asia to listen to talks by leading computer scientists, educators, artists, and business leaders. This March, Chan will launch Let’s Make a Difference HK!, an initiative to foster collaboration between high-impact startups and corporations in Hong Kong.”
We are looking forward to see you at the workshop! it’s going to be tons of fun!
Comments Off on 20140305 Lecture : School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong
Today I presented several works at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, on the invitation of the brilliant Takuro Mizuta Lippit ak DJ Sniff. It was interesting to present to a young designer crowd and connect older art / design works I did to my current robotics research Protei– all creative to my point of view. Here are the slides. I highly recommend to pump up the volume and turn off the lights for the 2 first videos on Vimeo.
Yesterday I was grateful to be a keynote speaker at the GIN852 conference. It was the very first time in my life I was asked to speak about my life path. Am I that old already? :)
I was overwhelmed to share so much about myself, I never felt so vulnerable. I hope that was helpful for the students and inspired them to find the courage they have in themselves to pursue what they believe is worthwhile.
In the 45 minutes presentation I explained about how to “Draw your life in one page” – which is explained in details in the video above. Over the past few years I developed and simplified a visualization method to map what you have done in the past, where you are now, and how to move on forward. The whole drawing exercise generally take about 30 minutes to do – maybe a little more the first time you do it. For me, it’s been a life changing experience that helped me :
improved my confidence to take hard decisions and
make my life more meaningful for myself, others and hopefully the world (I mean Nature in my case).
I hope it will help you make sense of it all. As of today 2014 March 3rd, this is my life drawing. Please share your life drawing with me.
About GIN852 : Sustainable Planning, Immediate Action: Hong Kong-wide Global Issues Network conference will be hosted by ICS on March 1- 2, 2014. Follow us @GIN_852 Description For the past years, the Global Issues Network (GIN) has been an ambitious worldwide event that brings schools around the world together, with the goal of empowering young people to collaborate and create solutions for global issues. However, we believe that international solutions should begin locally. 852 is the area code and also a colloquial term for Hong Kong. Hence, GIN852 both embodies the original international focus of GIN conferences and our unique local context. International Christian School will be hosting the 2nd GIN852 conference on March 1st and 2nd, 2014. The theme for the conference is “Sustainable Planning, Immediate Action.” It is our hope that the conference will provide a great opportunity for students all over HK to work together, learn, and build valuable relationships. Follow us on Twitter @GIN_852 Subscribe to us at youtube.com/user/gin852
Comments Off on 20140219 Cesar Harada at Media 360, Mothers choice invitation
I was happy to support Mothers choicecharity dinner at the JW Marriott in Hong Kong.
In my 45 minutes presentation, I tried to make the audience connect to their life network of events, and to their own social network. The underlying idea being to understand oneself better to leverage all the people around you to achieve great projects. Below are my slides.
Today I was very happy to make a first meeting with the great people of Creativity Lab in CUHK.
The lab is not opened yet, so everything is still to be done ! How exciting! Thanks for your warm welcome!
An inspirational Dorkbot-HK event, co-presented by Videotage and the K11 Art Foundation. The programme consists of four intriguing talks by local as well as international artists. Their seemingly diversified spheres are united seamlessly by Dorkbot, as they all design with electricity. Creative design ideas from coding vs. non coding, animation design works, interactive multimedia design to experimental digital music design will be presented by gurus from each field. The programme is guaranteed to open up new horizons for friends who want to experiment designing in a new dimension!