When faced with paying a $30,000 fee for a new prosthetic hand for his son Leon, father Paul McCarthy instead used instructions from the internet and his friend’s 3D-printer to build one himself for the princely sum of $10. Go dad!
Kenyan teen Richard Turere created a lion deterrent system using broken flashlight and motorcycle parts to protect his father’s herd of cows. The device also helps to save the endangered lions by preventing fatal conflict with humans.
Eyewire harnesses the addictiveness of video games to uncover how vision works. Players color nerve cells in slices of tissue to help map incredibly complex neural networks. Thousands have joined in so far and you can too!
It’s been a big year for exploration on Mars. Citizen astronomers played a role too via the Planet Four project, where participants helped analyze millions of never seen before images of the Martian surface, taken by NASA’s Reconnaissance Orbiter.
As politicians continued squabbling about what to do, citizens around the world got directly involved in protecting our planets future by monitoring plankton populations, collecting weather data in their backyards, and deciphering old ship logs.
In Tanzania ad hoc microscopes, assembled from an iPhone, flashlight and a camera lens, were used to detect intestinal parasites. The worms infect 2 billion people globally, mainly in poor areas, causing malnutrition and stunted growth.
The Gowanus Canal is too toxic to be explored by humans. So NYU students built a robotic vessel, the Brooklyn Atlantis, to collect information about water quality. A team of over 600 community members analyze the environmental data generated.
Hacker spaces like Genspace continue to grow and introduce eager amateurs to hands-on biology. Meanwhile, indie scientists tackled important problems underfunded by market-driven grants including mobile malaria testing, antibiotic discovery, and a long-standing puzzle in mental health research.
Science buses with onboard laboratory equipment helped to bring science to kids around the country. This year, New York’s BioBus upgraded its equipment and Chicago’s Think Tank launched with a successful crowdfunding campaign.
As many species come under increasing threat, concerned citizens participated in public conservation projects such as ARBIMON, where contributors use modded iPods and special software to record audio and monitor biodiversity in the field.
Up to 50 million tons of electronic waste is generated every year. Thankfully there are resourceful inventors like Togo’s Afate who makes 3D printers using leftover computer and scanner parts that he recovers from local dumping places.
NASA aren’t the only ones in the space biz! This year, two Danes built their own DIY capsule and spacesuit using cork and duct tape (and some other materials), while XCOR’s Lynx, which will send amateur astronauts and citizen science experiments into space, neared the end of development.