View By Date Contact Me


Posted: 12th October 2013

Xiaowei Wang and Deren Guler

A fairly low-tech idea of using the traditional use of kite flying to monitor air quality.

With lights that are affected by the chemical reactions with pollutants in the air, anyone can see what the air quality is like.

Stars in the Haze from ChinaFile on Vimeo.

"Flying kites is the quintessential Chinese pastime. But “wind zithers” or “paper sparrow hawks,” as they are known in Chinese, also have a long history as tools. Over millennia, Chinese have used them for measuring the wind, gauging distances, and even sending secret messages across enemy lines in battle.

This short film chronicles FLOAT, a project that that puts both the playful and practical heritage of kites to work convincing Beijing residents that monitoring the city’s air quality can be as simple as child’s play.

Conceived by U.S. graduate students Xiaowei Wang and Deren Guler, FLOAT organized workshops in Beijing to teach both veteran and fledgling kite flyers how to build simple pollution sensors that travel into the Chinese capital’s soupy skies and send data back to the people on the ground.

China’s leaders have long treated air pollution data as a kind of state secret. FLOAT’s message is that monitoring the air ought to be an activity open to anyone who breathes it."


Kite flying FLOAT Beijing from INDEX: Design to Improve Life® on Vimeo.


Further Reading

Sculpt by Numbers - or Light

This was an interesting concept of using a projection onto a 3D object to carve it to the right shape.