Tech meets exploration: Story of Sarah Weldon’s Oceans Project
I recently went to the Southbank’s #Web We Want Festival. It’s being held in three installments – and the public are invited to help shape the next two. I watched the ‘Internet of Things’ talk with Kevin Palmer and Matt Wade of Kin Design, Adrian Hon, author of A History of the Future in 100 Objects, and cognitive neuropsychologist and Google Glass Explorer Sarah Weldon.
I’m intrigued by the ‘Internet of Things’. When I was a student, I ran a project about how art could use sensors to respond and change for its viewers. For a British Library exhibition on inventors, I ran a social media campaign to ask the public what they would like to see invented – one of my favourite ideas was an oven that would know when your food was cooked perfectly, and stop cooking it. The classic example is a fridge that can tell when you’re running out of milk.
So, back to the story of Sarah Weldon. She is a neuropsychologist, science communicator and CEO of environmental and STEM education charity Oceans Project. It now reaches over 17,000 young people in more than 53 countries, thanks to a purpose built online platform and Skype in the Classroom sessions.
Sarah is about to set off on the world’s first solo row around the British coastline: a 14 week journey travelling 3,000 miles.
Sarah researches the effects of extreme environments on the biology of the brain and how this affects behaviour. As she will need to row for two hours and then rest for two hours, she is about to become her own science experiment (she did say she might hallucinate). Whilst on expedition, she will be collecting cognitive psychology and physiology data on herself to learn how her brain adapts to things such as sleep deprivation, calorific stress, exercise and being alone at sea for long periods of time. This will form the basis of her PhD research at Roehampton University in London. Impressive.
Sarah has been given lots of wearable technology to capture this data and bring the ocean and her experience alive for her 17,000 students. She will wear smart shorts to monitor muscle movements, a bio-harness (similar to those used on the International Space Station) to measure temperature, vital signs, heart rate, etc. She will have a head band which will measure REM sleep and brainwaves.
She’s also a ‘Google Glass Explorer’ which allows her to record information and browse the web hands free. For example, if she sees a dolphin or basking shark, by winking, she can take a photo or video and share it online. She can ask also Google questions about weather and the stars.
You can find out more about Sarah’s trip on her website and her boat is also going to be on show at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this autumn.
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