Smart Citizens Community Meet-Ups – Bringing technology & creativity together to protect nature

Members from the Smart Citizens Programme, Green Minds, Pollenize and Art and Energy come together to protect Plymouth’s wildlife and environment.

Projects and communities from Plymouth and the South West of England joined together at the latest Smart Citizens Community Meet-Up, to explore how innovative technology can support nature and conservation. Co-hosted by Plymouth College of Art-led Smart Citizens Programme and Plymouth City Council-led Green Minds project, the online event also featured guest speakers from Pollenize CIC and Art and Energy CIC. Over thirty people, including students and representatives of local businesses, came together as a community to discuss how digital technology and creativity can offer new solutions to protecting Plymouth’s wildlife and environment.

Participants were invited to share their own projects and ideas, leading to thought-provoking discussions ranging from the use of digital fabrication methods to create environmental public artwork and creating ultrasonic sensors to track bat activity, to using Plymouth’s new 360° immersive dome at Market Hall to visualise environmental data captured by sensors around the city.

University of Plymouths Environmental Park Sensor Image Credit University of Plymouth

University of Plymouth’s Environmental Park Sensor Installed in Plymouth (Photo credit - University of Plymouth)

Participant Chloe Georgakis recently started a collaborative project, working towards creating immersive art installations that use Augmented Reality technology to allow people to understand the wonders and benefits of seagrass and to celebrate the restoration of this vital habitat in Plymouth.

Reflecting on her experience at the Meet-Up, Chloe said, “I came looking to connect with other local creatives and draw inspiration. I found both of these things. There are some really interesting projects growing here, inspired by nature and driven by curiosity.

“I found out about the Art and Energy collective because they spoke at the Community Meet-Up session. A few weeks ago we attended a practical workshop that they hosted about creating solar powered artworks, in collaboration with the Smart Citizens Programme. Solar energy is vital to seagrass, as it's a photosynthesising plant that captures CO2. We think that there is an interesting connection there and hope to keep in touch.”

“The Smart Citizens team are a very supportive bunch. If you have a budding idea, the sooner you share it, the more likely it is to go beyond your head or your sketchbook and actually grow into something."

— Participant Chloe Georgakis
Chloe Georgakis Community Meet Up Participant

Meet-Up Participant, Chloe Georgakis

“The Smart Citizens team are a very supportive bunch. If you have a budding idea, the sooner you share it, the more likely it is to go beyond your head or your sketchbook and actually grow into something.

“My work partner is currently undertaking their ‘Design and Make: Part 2’ training and using this time to prototype our installation models. We plan to embrace digital fabrication processes to make our installations and utilise the technology available in the Fab Lab.”

Innovative tech and art-based solutions from local initiatives

At the most recent Smart Citizens Community Meet-Up, Eli Zahoui, Project Manager of the Smart Citizens Programme, shared how 2D fabrication methods such as laser cutting have been used during their free workshops to create bird houses and creative signs to raise awareness about wildflower meadows around Plymouth that have been planted by Green Minds participants. Eli was joined by Lee Nutbean, an electronics and coding expert, who is currently delivering another Smart Citizens training programme about creating Smart Citizen Kit sensors to collect and monitor important environmental data around Plymouth.

Laser Cut Bird House Image Credit Smart Citizens Programme

Laser Cut Birdhouse made in Smart Citizens Workshop

Representatives from Green Minds, a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) programme-funded project, shared their aims to rewild Plymouth and inspire a new wave of citywide investment in nature-based solutions. They were joined by project partners from the University of Plymouth who, alongside technology experts from The Data Place, have installed a network of sensors across the city collecting information such as wildlife activity, species sightings, air quality and more. Through technology, Green Minds aim to reveal Plymouth’s hidden nature and provide an educational tool to inspire communities to take action for nature.

Guest speakers from Pollenize CIC and Art and Energy CIC shared how they are combining technology and creativity in their efforts to protect the environment. Jenny Ayrton, Director of Art and Energy and Plymouth College of Art alumni, discussed the ‘Moths to a Flame’ project which aims to make 20,000 moths and record messages about the Climate Emergency for a public art installation at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).

Owen Finnie, Co-Director and Founder of Pollenize, discussed how Pollenize have placed bee hives around Plymouth, working with local scientists from the University of Plymouth to conduct DNA analysis on the pollen residue. Using the bees as biosensors, Pollenize identify gaps within the foraging radius of the beehive and use this data to inform their rewilding seed packets, available to purchase by the local community.

Speakers and participants joined together in an interactive activity which prompted them to share and discuss both small and ‘big-thinking’ ideas about how community, creativity and technology could protect local nature and wildlife. Exciting connections and opportunities for collaboration appeared throughout these discussions between projects and participants, including combining the Smart Citizen sensors with those from the University of Plymouth, the Data Place and other organisations in the city to create a citywide data platform capturing environmental data.

Access a recording of the ‘Community Meet-Up: Nature & Tech’, on the Smart Citizen’s video channel, alongside other workshops and talks. To join the conversation and connect with like-minded people, come and have a chat on the Smart Citizens Community Meet-Ups Slack channel!

Community Meet Up Interactive Activity

Community Meet-Up interactive activity

Smart Citizens’ Community Meet-Ups

The Smart Citizens Programme hosts regular Community Meet-Ups, joining up technology with one of the programme’s themes, such as: Fab City, art and creativity, health and wellbeing, experimental manufacturing, and more. Open to everyone, these free events offer the chance to join new conversations, connect with local people and initiatives, and discover opportunities in and around Plymouth.

The Smart Citizens first Community Meet-Up took place on 10 February 2021, focussing on plastic and technology. During the Meet-Up, participants had the opportunity to share their ideas and hear from projects around the city tackling plastic pollution through innovative solutions, including: Preventing Plastic Pollution, Precious Plastic Plymouth and Tavistock, 1000 Tyres Project and Plastiki.

The Smart Citizens Programme aims to continue connecting local initiatives, communities and entrepreneurs to encourage collaborative working and support innovative design thinking across the city.

Hear about future Smart Citizens events and opportunities by signing up to the Smart Citizens Newsletter and visiting their website.

Learn more about Green Minds by visiting their website, and get involved in their summer programme of events.

This event is part of the iMayflower project and has been supported by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who fund the Cultural Development Fund, which is administered by Arts Council England.

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Crafts third year wins in BAMS Student Medal Project

Plymouth College of Art student Gregory Williams has been announced a winner in the prestigious British Art Medal Society’s Student Medal Project. Gregory was one of over one hundred entrants from over fifteen art colleges across the country, with the winners chosen shortly before lockdown by a group of judges at the British Museum in London.

Gregory, who is a third-year student on the BA (Hons) 3D Design Crafts course, designed the piece called ‘Conversation’ using bronze casting and computer-aided design (CAD) software, supported by the expert staff in the college's Fab Lab Plymouth. Winning the prize presented by the Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers alias Wire Workers, the medal is a representation of the interaction and communication between opposing forces: the calming organic against the hectic mechanic.The judges commented on Gregory’s medal, highlighting the contrasting smooth and complex use of texture on both sides of the medal, remarking that it won due to the fact it was an attractive piece inspired by a good subject matter.

Gregory initially designed and created his medal in wax, submitting it with an artist statement to his lecturers who then selected the medals to represent the college.

Gregory, originally from Basingstoke, said: “I modelled the piece using Rhino 3D software, printing a few test pieces in plastic, making adjustments until I printed my final model in castable resin. I then used the facilities at Plymouth College of Art to metal cast the medal. During this stage, I received a lot of support and help from both the metal technicians and the Fab Lab, so big thanks to them!

“Winning this has given me such a confidence boost and has encouraged me to enter other competitions as well as consider medals as a future medium.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the BA (Hons) 3D Design Crafts course, it’s been a real ‘hit the ground running’ experience for me! From day one, I was being taught the foundations of many different mediums, allowing me the space to develop my own practice and choose where I wanted to specialise. Between lectures, workshops, exhibitions and excursions, I feel that the course really pushed me to do more than I thought possible.”

Gregory WEB

Senior Lecturer & Subject Leader for BA (Hons) 3D Design Crafts Gayle Matthias said: “It’s always so encouraging for our students to get recognition for their hard work, especially from esteemed organisations such as the British Medal Art Society. Over the years, Gregory has shown interest in working across a range of materials and processes. To win this prize just shows how far he’s developed creatively since joining the course.”

The Student Medal Project is hosted by the British Art Medal Society and actively encourages and promotes the art of making medals throughout higher education art institutions across the country and in Italy.

"Winning this has given me such a confidence boost and has encouraged me to enter other competitions as well as consider medals as a future medium."
- Gregory Williams, BA (Hons) 3D Design Crafts student

Supported by prestigious livery companies such as the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, the Worshipful Company of Founders and Thomas Fattorini Ltd, winners and entrants are published within a catalogue which also allows a record for those who are at the beginning of their artistic careers, with a further chance of the British Museum purchasing particularly exemplary student-designed medals for display.

The judges included industry names such as Gregory Fattorini of Thomas Fattorini Ltd, Janet Larkin, curator of the British Museum, Linda Crook, artist and medal maker, Marcy Leavitt Bourne, Student Medal Project director as well as Stacey Mutkin, photographer and invited judge.


SageTech: Leading Sustainable Anesthesia Technology

Fab Lab Plymouth at PCA supported Sagetech Medical Equipment to develop it's use of 3D Design and 3D printing to develop it's innovative anaesthesia recycling technology.

When it comes to environmental emissions there are well known offenders such as travel pollution and fossil fuel use, but a relatively unknown and significant source of emissions can be found in the modern anaesthesia gases used in hospitals.

Global anaesthetic emissions contribute 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents every year. The NHS’ anaesthetic emissions are equal to the emissions from the commute for all 1.3 million NHS staff.

Co-founded by anaesthetist, Sebastian Brown and entrepreneur, Mark Rushworth, SageTech Medical Equipment has developed a way to capture, extract, purify and resupply waste anesthetic agents used during surgery.

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SageTech initially accessed the Fab Lab to learn 3D CAD, having identified this as an area crucial to the development of their technology. They accessed the SEED Project, an EU funded programme that enables the Fab Lab to provide bespoke learning to businesses based in Devon. From that, SageTech then accessed another EU funded programme; Impact Lab - Environmental futures & Big Data at PCA. This enabled them to receive technical support and 3D printing facilities. After around a year and many printed parts later, SageTech have moved onto the pilot stage and are testing their equipment an process in Devon Hospitals.