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Environmental Radioactivity, an audiovisual Introduction

"Green groups fear 'most dangerous' nuclear power plant on Hong Kong's doorstep" South China Morning Post


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.

Radioactivity in Hong, Safecast Map, Mac App
Map by Safecast showing radioactivity in Hong Kong with the brand new Mac (free) app. Government data here.

The topic of environmental radioactivity is timely :

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.

Share or watch in full screen :

Where is all the plastic in the ocean?

About 10 days ago, we went out with a little group of students and we intentionally spilled 138 gr of plastic samples in a small lake in Hong Kong to test our optical plastic particle sensor. After a few seconds we had to stop the test because our experiment became the feast of many fishes and turtles. It was terrifying to see how quickly plastic debris spread, how voraciously animals came to eat it and how difficult it was to clean it up. It took 10 of us, 4 boats and 40 minutes to clean 138 gr of plastic debris with no waves, no current and very moderate wind. Imagine tons of plastic debris in the open sea and all the animals there…

Today  I have been under an avalanche of questions about plastic pollution in the ocean. It seems hard to trust a reliable source of information or maybe it is the science that is moving very fast. People ask me maybe because I have sailed across the gyre myself, collected plastic samples in Hawaii, and nowadays working on an optical plastic sensor with a team of young students in Hong Kong when I am not developing a fleet of sailing robots that I hope one day will be out there measuring plastic and other pollutions like radioactivity, acidification, oil spills, overfishing and other urgent ocean issues. But to be honest I have much more questions than I have answers – at this stage we all do. I am writing to compile some informations I came across recently, trying to make sense and propose some ideas.


When we found out

“Every year we produce about 300 million tons of plastic, a portion of which enters and accumulates in the oceans. […] In 2012 alone, 288 million tons of plastic were produced (PlasticsEurope 2013), which is approximately the same weight of the entire human biomass (Walpole et al., 2012). […] The discovery of fragmented plastic during plankton tows of the Sargasso Sea in 1971 led to one of the earliest studies of plastic in the marine environment. Using a 333 micron surface net trawl, Carpenter and Smith collected small fragments of plastics in 1971, resulting in estimates of the presence of plastic particulates at an average of 3,500 pieces and 290 g/km2 in the western Sargasso Sea (Carpenter and Smith, 1972). Shortly after, Colton et al., (1974) surveyed the coastal waters from New England to the Bahamas and confirmed distribution of plastic all along the North Atlantic. These studies have been recently updated in two comprehensive studies of the North Atlantic gyre (K. L. Law et al., 2010; Moret- Ferguson et al., 2010). Indeed, plastic is found in most marine and terrestrial habitats, including bays, estuaries, coral reefs, lakes and the open oceans. (Rochman et al., 2014, Wright et al., 2013). The ingestion rate of plastic particles by mesopelagic fish species in this area is estimated between 12,000 and 24,000 ton/year (Davison and Asch, 2011).
“How the oceans can clean themselves, A feasibility Study” Ocean Cleanup Array, June 2014.


What we thought we knew

AVANI-trawl, photo marcus Eriksen

I trust Algalita Foundation and 5 gyres for that I was lucky to meet them in person and they had been to several gyres many times as an independent non-profit organisation. Below are some journeys they have done with a manta trawler as you see a picture of above. They explain their method very well and in simple words here.
In 2008, we had a horrifying map but we felt somehow confident about the data.

Plastic ocean Ma

In 2010, Dohan and Maximienko  (Illustration above, 2010. Oceanography 23, 94–103.), based on the trawler data by Algalita and other organisations produced this famous simulation of where we should expect plastic to be. Don’t be fooled by some pictures you probably saw of the “plastic continent”, such thing does not exist in the middle of the ocean.

Yet, the Algalita announced that “Estimates of plastic in the world’s oceans exceed 100 million tons. Though 20% comes from ocean sources like derelict fishing gear, 80% comes from land, from our watersheds.”

So at this stage, we thought, we would find tens of millions of tons of plastic debris in the gyres. Well…


What we think we know now

Thanks to Dr Blurton of the Hong Kong Harbour School who sent me the pdf, I was quite shocked with this new publication “Plastic debris in the open ocean” by Andrés Cózara, Fidel Echevarríaa, J. Ignacio González-Gordilloa, Xabier Irigoienb, Bárbara Úbedaa, Santiago Hernández-Leónd, Álvaro T. Palmae, Sandra Navarrof, Juan García-de-Lomasa, Andrea Ruizg, María L. Fernández-de-Puellesh, and Carlos M. Duartei. Good job ladies and gentlemen. The pdf is here :
I am selecting only some essential information but I recommend you to read the paper, it’s short, only 5 pages + references.

"Concentrations of plastic debris in surface waters of the global ocean" Plastic debris in the open ocean
In 2010 (yes, 4 years ago – but the paper has been published June 6th 2014), the team embarked on a sailing journey around the world as the “Malaspina science expedition” , doing  3,070 ocean samples with a manta trawler. The grey areas is where prior research ( explained above) suggest they would find plastic accumulation, and that was verified as you see with the yellow, orange and red dots. But…

“Those little pieces of plastic, known as microplastics, can last hundreds of years and were detected in 88 percent of the ocean surface sampled during the Malaspina Expedition 2010,” lead researcher and the author of the study Andres Cozar from the University of Cadiz, told AFP. The total amount of plastic in the open-ocean surface is estimated at between 7,000 and 35,000 tons, according to the report. This amount, though big, is lower than the scientists expected.”

"Range of the global load of plastic debris in surface waters of the open ocean" Plastic debris in the open ocean

  • Before this paper, much of the attention was focused toward the North Pacific Garbage Patch => turns out all the other oceans are in bad shape too.
  • Before this paper, we knew plastic was present in all oceans but the general consensus was that it was accumulating in the center of the gyres mostly => Now we have measured plastic to be present on 88% of the world ocean surface. Pretty much everywhere.
  • Before this paper, the estimates were ranging from tens of millions of tons to hundred of millions of tons => Now maximum 35’000 tons. [silence] 35’000 tons? That’s it!!!??? Is that amazing good news, or is that bad news!?


What we (think we) really know now

Out of the estimated millions of tons of plastic debris we emit, we can now only find at most 35’000 tons spread over 88% of the oceans. S0 we know now where is less than 1% of the plastic we anticipated finding. Where is the 99%+ of the rest of the plastic? This is really embarrassing.


The media is going crazy about it

The articles about this are popping out from all part, I wont try to keep track of all the links, because they are pretty much all based on the same paper I mentioned above. Many are spreading panic, instead of awareness unfortunately.


What will the Ocean CleanUp  Array collect?

Back in October 2012 “according to Boyan Slat’s calculations, a gyre could realistically be cleaned up in five years’ time, collecting at least 7.25 million tons of plastic combining all gyres. He however does note that an ocean-based cleanup is only half the story, and will therefore have to be paired with ‘radical plastic pollution prevention methods in order to succeed.” (Wikipedia, retrieved July 2nd, 2014). 

In June 2014, in the feasibility study : “The Ocean Cleanup Array is estimated to be 33 times cheaper than conventional cleanup proposals per extracted mass of plastics. In order to extract 70 million kg (or 42 percent) of garbage from the North Pacific Gyre over 10 years, we calculated a total cost of 317 million euro.”

Multilevel Trawl

Sure, the “multi-level trawler” (p102 0f the Feasibility Study)  used by the Ocean Cleanup team is radically different from the “regular manta trawler” everybody else uses. But the difference of plastic quantity is not found here either. There are so many variables to making a correct plastic measurement, the speed of the boat, the size of the mesh, the position of the trawler in the regards to the wake of the boat, the wind and the waves …

So, how can the Ocean Cleanup collect 70’000 tons from the North Pacific Gyre alone if the most recent estimate of ALL the plastic in ALL ocean surface combined is only of 35’000 tons? And how can this information even be trusted when ” Last year, an estimated 150,000 tons of marine plastic debris ended up on the shores of Japan and 300 tons a day on India’s coasts ( retrieved July 3rd 2014)”.  If this recent study  from the Malaspina expedition confirms true, would the collection of plastic debris with the Ocean Cleanup array be less meaningful? And less profitable if at all? But wait, that is not the question. Of course we need to stop emitting plastic in the ocean – that’s not a new idea and that is self-evident. And of course we must collect the plastic that is already out there and will continue to accumulate in the ocean – even if it is expensive instead of profitable. I personally support Boyan Slat and his team. No matter how many people say “this is impossible” someone has got to try. Even if it is to fail, we must try and try again, again we succeed. This technology, or another technology.

But the real question remains : where is the plastic? How can we have plastic measurements dropping so dramatically?


How can we find out what is really going on?

Such a large amount of plastic has not disappeared over night, between 2008 (Algalita estimate) and 2010 (Malaspina measurements).

Scientists argue that :

  • some plastic breaks down so small, it goes through the fine plankton net they use. Plastic still floats but we can’t be measured unless we use an extra finer mesh that is probably more fragile, forcing the ship to move the trawler even slower (it was already recommended to sail at 2 Nautical Knots, well up to 8 knots for the fast Erikson trawler).
  • the plastic chemical composition changes causing it to distribute in the water column or sink at the bottom of the ocean
  • the plastic is being ingested by animals and is being pooped, dropping to the bottom of the ocean, or it moves into the food web with all it’s toxics and until it eventually reached our plates

But we don’t know yet in which proportions each of these phenomenon happen at all yet.


Some ideas

Optical sensing

If the plastic is so small that it go through the mesh, maybe it is not a mesh we should be using to measure plastic. What about optics?
For a long time Laser Optical Plankton Counters (LOPC) have been in use to measure plankton. We don’t collect physical sample, we collect data, the machine can keep running without interruption, the data is more granular and instantly processed.

Laser-Optical Plankton Counter (LOPC)  Laser-Optical Plankton Counter (LOPC)

In the LOPC, water carrying plankton is  flowing. The plankton is being “flashed” by a laser and it is from the outline it that is then counted automatically.

Laser-Optical Plankton Counter (LOPC)

Mobile sensing platform

Haching a video water channel at the Hong Kong aharbour School

With a motivated group of young students, we hacked a low cost water video channel.

Testing the Ocean Plastic optical sensor, Hong Kong Harbour School

We attached our optical sensor to a small Remote Controlled (RC) power boat. As we sailed, some water that contains plastic debris was video recorded and the plastics bits were also captured in the pink net at the back of the video channel. The point of the pink net is too measure the plastic physically collected that has travelled through the video channel, and compare it with the estimate that we can make from the video alone. We have not done that experiment comparison yet, but it would give us an idea of how reliable our video estimate is in comparison to the real measured weight of plastic collected.

We managed to capture video of plastic particles moving through the video channel. This still very rough.


Motion tracking of plastic parts

We have been very lucky to get some help from Edward Fung who started to tinker with the video on OpenCV.


Isolation and quantification of plastic

Now, it would be great if we could find out what is plastic and what is not. One of the greatest difficulty being that plastic debris becomes a habitat or a transport for a lot of marine life. How can an untrained software (as opposed to a machine learning based software) distinguish plastic from something else? Typically a plastic fragment would be wrapped into a “bubble” of organic matter, making it more difficult to isolate from an optical perspective. Thankfully, one student in our team, Brandon Wong found out this research :

“We succeeded in developing technology that is capable of sensing plastics using an InGaAsP (Indium Gallium Arsenide Phosphide) semiconductor laser diode (LD)

It was discovered that upon measuring light absorption spectra in plastics, in the wavelength range of 300 to 3000 nm, the peak values were always observed at or near 1700 nm, regardless of plastic types. This discovery opened the possibility for simple optical sensing of plastics with the use of a LD in this wavelength range. Observation of unique light absorption characteristics within the near infra-red spectrum of each different plastic type has led us to develop the world’s first technology capable of detecting different types of plastics with the use of a LD (with three different wavelengths).”

So this is really exciting if we could use the right “lighting” and camera to optically detect such great variety of plastic. There are several inspiring DIY spectrometer projects out there to get inspired from. Check also the Riffle with Optical data logger capacity.


Size adjustment

If we manage to get that optical detection running, the last but not least challenge may be to scale  from a regular webcam to a microscope-scaled system.


"Size distribution of floating plastic debris collected during the Malaspina circumnavigation at calm conditions." Plastic debris in the open ocean

According to the research done during the Malaspina Ocean Expedition the plastic particles we are trying to measure are very very small… Could we be heading in the direction of microfluidic systems?

If the plastic debris we are trying to test are incredibly small, could we control the flow in a very precise yet robust way to perform spectral and / or chemical analysis? Many questions to explore…

So with such a system, could we answer the 2 first questions? :

  • sensing plastic that is extremely small
  • sensing plastic that is small and broken and sunk at the bottom of the ocean – that would imply that this machine can be taken thousands of meter deep : super high-pressure resistant

I day dream that a fleet of autonomous sailing robots doing the remote sensing work. In fact the Ocean Cleanup feasibility study mentions the relevance of deploying such sensor network system in it’s recommandation pages :

P439_Ocean cleanup array_TOC_Feasibility_study_lowres

Is that a fleet of Protei right there :) !?

And now the third question ? What part do animals have in the “plastic disappearing” plot? We wont be able to see that in an optical system unless we’re dealing with tiny transparent animals.


Animal testing

I feel terrible for even thinking about this but that is just an idea at this stage. What I am about to propose might be totally unethical, I don’t know. Marine biology and toxicology are not my areas at all. Forgive my ignorance and please correct anything wrong that I may propose, please comment to help.

As I used as this post introduction, our experience with dispersing 138gr of plastic had become a spill in a few seconds on which turtles and fishes came to feast. We had to interrupt the experiment and it took 10 of us during 40 minutes to collect 138gr of plastic debris with 4 boats on a lake that had no current, no waves and very moderate wind. What we learnt is that turtles and fishes love to eat plastic. In fact many studies about suffering, dead animal dissection and observation of carcasses indicate that birds, and marine animals feed abundantly on plastic. But how do you measure how much plastic an animal is willing to eat when given the choice?

In a controlled environment – say a box – we place an aquatic animal. We feed this animal a mix of plastic and “real” food in equal quantities with an excess of overall quantity.

  • Will the animal eat more food or plastic (behaviour)? Will that behaviour change over time? Does the animal develop a preference for certain plastic? By the taste? Smell? Texture? Colour? Motion?
  • How much plastic would still remain untouched in the environment?
  • How much plastic will travel through the digestive system?
  • How much plastic would remain within the digestive system? And if so, how much would the plastic be digested if at all?
  • What are the short term symptoms of plastic poisoning (mechanical) ?
  • What are the long term symptom of plastic poisoning (chemical)?
  • What is the lethal dose for type A / B / C / D / Plastic?
  • What is the most lethal shape or size of plastic fragment?
  • Is an animal dead by plastic attractive as a food form for another carcasses-eating animals?
  • When an animal dies and decompose, how much of the overall plastic of the experiment remains?

many more questions could be asked and variables included such as the size of the box, the season, the age of the animal, the sex, social learning doing the experiment with multiple animals simultaneously.


Who is active in Hong Kong?

There are several groups in Hong Kong interested in the topic of plastic pollution


My non-conclusion

What we thought we know about plastic pollution has just been challenged in a very big way. And I believe this will happen again soon as we investigate.
The plastic pollution is present at a whole different scale, both small for the particle size and huge by it’s distribution over pretty much the entire ocean surface (88%) and abyssal depths.
The effects of plastic pollution at theses scales are still very unknown. As we keep developing new concepts for ocean cleaning we are still lacking understanding of where is the plastic, how is it transformed while travelling great distances? How does it impact marine life? How does plastic and it’s chemical compounds travel through the food chain to our plates? What are the consequences on human health? What can we do about it?

The more we learn about plastic in the ocean and the more we understand how harmful of a substance it is. And as André Cózar concludes in this important paper.

The abundance of nano-scale plastic particles has still not been quantified in the ocean, and the measurements of microplastic in deep ocean are very scarce, although available observations point to a significant abundance of microplastic particles in deep sediments, which invokes a mechanism for the vertical transport of plastic particles, such as biofouling or ingestion. Because plastic inputs into the ocean will probably continue, and even increase, resolving the ultimate pathways and fate of these debris is a matter of urgency.

So many more questions now… But 2 ideas how to investigate. More ideas? Suggestions? Readings?


Skype in the classroom : Develop Innovative Open Ocean Technology

Develop Innovative Open Ocean Technology - skype in the classroom

Next week I am going to be teaching a class on the theme of “Develop Innovative Open Ocean Technology” on skype, for free. You can attend, but please do let me know when you want it to happen here by voting your preferred time : The pool will be closed this friday nov 9th.

About this Skype lesson
In 2010, when the BP Oil Spill was pouring in the Gulf of Mexico, Cesar Harada left MIT and moved to the Gulf to develop an Open Source robot to clean up oil spill. From a friend’s garage he developed “Protei” the revolutionary shape-shifting sailing robot that would sail upwind pulling a long oil sorbent to clean up the oil slick. After a successful Kickstarter campaign the newly-assembled Protei team embarked on building Protei_006 in Rotterdam (NL), the largest shape shifting sailing robot to date. In 2013 CEO Harada and COO Gabriella Levine sailed around the world testing Protei technology and developing a business strategy for an innovation that has the potential to drastically lower the cost of surface exploration and cleaning the ocean with an open technology. Protei aims at manufacturing it’s first batch of commercial autonomous sailing robots by the end of 2013 from their newly built Hong Kong Headquarters with their manufacturing partner Seeedstudio in Shenzhen.

In this class, Harada would briefly explain Protei concept, history and future development and will invite you for questions. The themes that we would talk about are ocean robotics, open hardware for the environment, ethics of business for ocean healthy future.

The videos the participants should watch before the class are :
And imagine what a swarm of highly maneuverable robots could do for the oceans (as maneuverable as these flying quadrotors):

Participants should also read

The places are limited, so looking forward to see you there :)
For questions, you can join me here cesarminoruharada – knock knock : do not call during the class  :p

20130421 Morocco

Protei Hackathon!

make code sail share

From right to left  “Make, Code, Sail, Share” in arabic.

The video: | The custom wesbsite : [archive]

I love the comment of the Unreasonable at Sea Media team explaining what a “Hack-a-Thon” is :

While in Morocco, Gabriella Levine and Cesar Harada of Protei took advantage of the engineer community in Casablanca to host what they called a “hack-a-thon”. While most people think of “hacking” as “the process of gaining unauthorised access to computer systems for the purpose of tampering and / or stealing personal and financial information,” the intentions for the event was far from malicious or illegal. The attendees of the event were presented the challenge of designing and testing a boat in 12 hours using scraps and raw materials not typically used for constructing any type of aquatic vehicle. The accelerated learning and prototyping that came out of the event defines a new type of “hacker” as one “who combines excellence, playfulness, cleverness and exploration in performed activities.”

We have to give great thanks to ESITH ENACTUS for being such great hosts and participants. The workshop was lead by :

  • Cesar HARADA (France-Japan): Inventor of the Protei Shape-shifting system, Ex MIT Project leader, TED Fellow.
  • Gabriella LEVINE (USA) : Hardware Designer & Hacker, Top women in Tech (Adafruit), Master from ITP Tisch New York
  • El Wali El ALAOUI (Marocco): Founder of SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace, first hackerspace in Morocco.
  • Darren BENNETT (USA): Creative Director, Microsoft Studios, Member of the original Kinect group.

None of this would have been possible without MCISE (Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship) The event was sponsored by Microsoft Studios, Xbox, filmed (above) by Unreasonable Media, and documented also by Improbable productions for Thalassa, Fanny Pernoud & Olivier Bonnet. We also want to thanks the TEDxCasablanca team for their hospitality.

Protei Hackathon Poster !

Half of the workshop was in french, some in english, and a little in Arabic. We broke into 4 teams of about 8 people each. This was the program of the day.

  • 10:00 – 11:00 : Introduction. Open Hardware movement. Protei. Workshop intro, Q&A. Break into groups. 
  • 11:00 – 12:30 : Rapid prototyping. 3 fast cycles of design rapid prototyping in small groups. 
  • 12:30 – 13:00 : Quick lunch. 
  • 13:00 – 14:45 : Build in small groups with instructors, quick review.
  • 14:45 – 15:00 : Quick public review of each unfinished prototypes. 
  • 15:00 – 16:30 : Final build of prototypes. 
  • 16:30 – 17:00 : Walk to lake with prototypes.
  • 17:00 – 18:00 : Test in the water. fim, photos, documentation.
  • 18:00 – 19:00 : Diner
  • 19:30 – 24:00 : Work at ESITH for those who want to continue, advanced hacking, improve prototype, documentation, share on social media.

Protei Hackathon, by Salaheddine El Hanafi

Our amazing organising team!!! 4 boats in the water! All winers!

Super Protei instagram

We gave a t-shirt and a hoodie to the winning team… A few hours later : this was on facebook!!! The pride of working together is mutual. Thanks to Roman Yablonski for the amazing Protei logo, people love  it! We must also tell for the story that our original intention was to hold the Protei Hackathon, at the first and only (to date) hackerspace in Morocco : SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace in the middle of the desert by the sea, founded by the mesmerizing El Wali El ALAOUI. I designed this sticker in honor of our collaboration :

Protei + Sahara Labs

We keep precious memories from the hackathon. Next time, Protei hackathon in Tarfaya, Inchallah! 

Protei meets OCP

We have been lucky to meet the sustainability managers of the largest Moroccan company, the OCP.  “OCP is the world’s biggest exporter of phosphates and derivatives. The company is solely responsible for the production and sale of Moroccan phosphate resources, mined at the Khouribga, Ben Guerir, Youssoufia mines totaling 85 billion cubic meters of reserves in central Morocco, and Bou Craa about 1 billion cubic meter in Saguia el-Hamra region, in the Morocco-controlled part of Western Sahara. OCP is a state owned company created in 1920.” Source : Wikipedia. OCP has both an R&D and a sustainability department. OCP used to operate a large fleet of ships to export phosphate, but it is no longer the case, it is now the client that is responsible for procuring the materials. We had a good discussion about the environmental implications of the OCP and will keep contact with the group. Special thanks to Soraya Joundy for the intro.


Redefine Success, Young Chamber of Commerce Rabat

20130419 Success_story

What is success to you? For me it is to conciliate Humans with Nature and Technology. It comes from my belief that without the environment, there is no social structure, without social structure no technology, no technology no money. So the only business I want to be involved with, would have an order of priorities that is clearly 1. Environment, 2. Social, 3. Technology, 4. Profit, which is pretty much the contrary of business as usual. I personally think such conception of business is the best way to reverse our negative impact on the environment and gear out of the anthropocene. The Ocean is where all life comes from. The ocean is the future of our habitat, food, energy, transport, communication, security. More than protecting it, we must make sure it thrives with life.

Essentials Ocean

For those who are more math-minded :

Environmentally Successful Product

I tried to explain this so many times, and often got that blank expression in return. The normal curve that some environmentalists advocate doesn’t start to be good enough for the environment. It is not about Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, we need to go much further than that if we want to revert our negative impact on the environment. The idea is very simple. What people call “green-tech”, “eco-friendly” or “clean-tech” suggests that it is good for the environment. Not neutral. But that can only be true over time. For example : a solar panel requires a lot of energy to be manufactured. You need to use a solar panel for a long time, maintain it and use it in an efficient context to offset the environmental cost of designing, developing, manufacturing, packing, shipping, selling it to a customer (first half of the red area on the graph) before you even start using a green product. I remember reading an average solar panel needs to be used ~10 years (other half of the red area) to offset it’s own environmental cost from fabrication to sale. It is only after 10 years of regular use that a solar panel goes below being neutral and starts becoming really having a positive environmental impact (green area on the graph) until it “dies”. Even that does not include the product “after life” when it is being recycled, hopefully “returned to nature” without damage or accumulation in a landfill.

Protei collecting ocean data will not offset it’s own environmental cost easily. What it does, it reduces the environmental cost dramatically in comparison to operating a large fossil fuel-powered oceanographic vessel for the same job. On the other hand, a large Protei unit that performs environmental clean up (plastic debris, oil spill) would offset it’s environmental cost very quickly by capturing trash /pollution / environmental “value” in the ocean that others have produced. I call that “absorbing other companies externalities“, some people use that to get evaluated on the carbon market. We want to partner with companies that have a lot of these externalities, probably through the channel of Corporate Social/Environmental Responsibility, some companies would speak about “Shared Values“.

Why do I mention that in my blog post about Morocco? 2 main reasons :

  • I encourage young engineers to think that it is not about minimising the negative environmental impact their technology has ; it is about having a positive impact on the environment. That may mean changing the agenda of the company. Can it be profitable? I think so in many cases. If not short term, that comes across to me as a generally good long-term strategy. What’s also true, is that destroying the base of everything else – the environment – will not permit any of the rest to happen. We need to make these choices.
  • In this post I mention OCP. OCP is apparently doing a great job mining phosphate in its own rights, but the fertiliser that gets exported, when used inappropriately by their clients can have heavy implications on the environment, especially the oceans with hypoxia, eutrophication and many other directly or indirectly fertiliser-induced effects on the ocean do occur. We would love to investigate on this topic and perhaps assist OCP improve the after-sale.


We enjoyed Morocco and we’re excited to come back. These days some of the people we talked to are discussing how they could open and manage a hackerspace in Casablanca :) … That’s exciting! Keep going ladies and gentlemen!

20130420 PROTEI HACKATHON !!! April 20th in Casablanca Morocco

Protei Hackathon Poster !

Facebook Event :

DATE: Samedi 20 Avril 2013, 10:00 – 23:00
LOCATION: ESITH  Eole Supérieure des Industries du Textile et de l’Habillement. Route d’Eljadida, km 8, BP 7731 – Oulfa, Casablanca, Maroc. Plan
LANGUES : Francais, English, Arabic


make code sail share

Above from right to left : “Make, Code, Sail, Share”.

Venez fabriquer des robots a voile basés sur micro-controller Arduinoraspberry πservomotorsDC moteur et autre senseurs pendant une journée inoubliable d’électromécanique, de code, de test dans l’eau, de Kinecthacks, de rencontres. Nous fabriquerons des coques de bateau, des mats, des voiles, des boitiers de contrôle mécanique, assemblerons des circuits électroniques, programmerons, testerons nos machines sur l’eau, partagerons sur les réseaux sociaux. Nous discuterons aussi les principes du mouvement DIY et Open Hardware (technologies ouvertes et gratuites).
Protei (page facebook) est un navire autonome Open Source a coque articulé developé pour explorer et nettoyer les océans. Les océans souffrent de marées noires, de pollution plastique, fuites radioactives, surpêche, mort des récifs coralliens, changement climatique, montée du niveau de la mer. Nous devons developer ensemble des technologies àtants la hauteur de ces défis.


Cesar Harada Gabriella Levine El Wali El Alaoui Darren Bennett


Le Hackathon est ouvert aux experts comme au débutants sera facilité par :
Cesar HARADA (France-Japon): Inventeur du system Protei de bateau à coque articulé, Ex-Project Leader au MIT, TED Fellow.
Gabriella LEVINE (USA) : Hardware Designer & Hacker, Top women in Tech (Adafruit), Master de ITP Tisch de New York.
El Wali El Alaoui (Maroc): Fondateur de SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace, premier et unique hackerspace au Maroc.
Darren Bennett (USA): Directeur créatif, Microsoft Studios, Membre de groupe a l’origine de la Kinect.



  • 10:00 – 11:00 : Introduction du mouvement Open Hardware. Protei, robot naviguant. Introduction du Workshop. Questions. Formation des groupes.
  • 11:00 – 12:30 : Prototypage rapide. 3 cycles rapide de design en petits groupes.
  • 12:30 – 13:00 : Dejeuner leger.
  • 13:00 – 14:45 : Fabrication de bateaux robotises en petits groupes. Revue par les instructeurs.
  • 14:45 – 15:00 : Presentation interne entre groupes.
  • 15:00 – 16:30 : Construction des prototypes.
  • 16:30 – 17:00 : Nous marcherons avec les prototypes de l’ISETH au lac le plus proche.
  • 17:00 – 18:00 : Test dans l’eau, photos, video, documentation.
  • 18:00 – 19:00 : Diner
  • 19:30 – 23:00 : Sceance d’approfondissement pour celles et ceux qui veulent aller plus loin, améliorer les prototypes, documenter et partager sur les réseaux sociaux.



Chacun des participants du workshop est libre, responsable et ne peux poursuivre les organisateurs, l’hote, les partenaires, les sponsors, les medias presents en cas d’accident corporel, de vol ou de perte des biens ou de donnees.
Tout ce qui sera produit lors du workshop est publie sous license open source : Hardware (CERN OH), Code (GNU GPL) Documentation (dessin, photo, video, diagrames, textes) sousCreative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Chaque participant permets aux medias presents d’utiliser les photos et videos capturees pendant la duree du workshop.

AGE MINIMUM : 18 Ans, ou accompagne par les parents. 

FRAIS D’ADMISSION : 150 DH a l’entree. Boisson et nourriture inclus. Amenez des outils, des composants et des materiaux.
REJOIGNEZ LE GROUPE “PROTEI HACKATHON” SUR FACEBOOK : Joindre le goupe Facebook n’est pas une inscription formelle. Pour participer au Hackathon il est obligatoire de s’inscrire.


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20130128 Unreasonable at Sea, episode 3

Unreasonable at Sea: Episode 3 – Revolutionizing Education in Japan from Unreasonable Media on Vimeo.

In this episode the team from Guru-G explores how their innovative teaching platform can be utilized in Japan’s education system. Guru-G is a gamified teaching, teacher training & open certification software platform that’s been adopted in 10 states across India, and they’ve also established partnerships with foundations & companies that directly support over 3,000 schools and reach over 2.5 million students. Find out if their software platform will be a good fit for the progressive Tokyo International School.