EcoHome Lab launched this weekend (19th/20th April 2013) with two fascinating and involving events taking place at MadLab in Manchester. These sessions were part of Carbon Co-op's new project to assist householders in taking greater control of their homes through use of open source tools.
The weekend started on Friday evening with Matt Fawcett of Carbon Co-op and Trystan Lea of OpenEnergyMonitors running an introductory workshop on the use of the Arduino platform – a really simple programming environment that enables participants to control bits of technology and kit such as the OpenEnergyMonitors.
This session was followed by a short launch to the project with presentations from Matt and Trystan on the potential of open source technologies and OpenEnergyMontiors in particular, and from Jonathan Atkinson of Carbon Co-op and Eleni Kalkantzi of URBED Co-op, on the potential for these tools to empower householders and provide new methodologies for household energy and retrofit assessment.
Saturday's day-long workshop saw participants get to work with soldering irons, electronic components and circuit boards. The aim was for everyone to create the basic elements of their own OpenEnergyMontior: the EmonTX to collect household environmental data and the EmonGLCD screen to display energy and other data readings. This was followed by the programming of a Rasberry Pi (a micro computer) to log and transmit data via the internet to an online dashboard.
Not everyone got through everything but with the first monthly EcoHome Lab MeetUp taking place on Thursday 25th April, participants will get a chance to troubleshoot and finish off.
One of the most encouraging aspects of the weekend was the networking and discussions that took place in and around the two events. The project is positioned at the point where open source technology and householders meet, so it was encouraging to attract an good audience of interested and engaged participants with a huge range of skills, experience and specialities.
Our teaching methodology for this project is designed to encourage peer support and learning and throughout the weekend participants were able to assist and trouble shoot each others' problems whether it be downloading and installing the Arduino package or simply working out how to use a volt meter.
The project continues with monthly MeetUp sessions 6pm-9pm, on the last Thursday of every month and anyone can get involved by signing up to the EcoHome Lab group here: http://www.meetup.com/Eco-Home-Lab-Manchester