Compared to other first-tier cities in China, Shenzhen’s air is practically pristine: in the first six months of this year, according to Guangdong Province’s Environmental Protection Bureau, only 3.3% of days failed to meet national air quality standards, compared to nearly 23% in nearby Guangzhou. (Meanwhile, Beijing saw only 55.9% “good air quality days.”)

Nonetheless, the Southern hardware hub is home to a new grassroots initiative, called Citizen Q, helping residents keep better track of the air quality around them.

Over the past couple of months, local hacker and self-dubbed “industry 4.0 artist” Rachel Hu has been leading workshops on assembling air pollution sensors from scratch. The design of the devices, which track the concentration of harmful PM2.5 and PM10 particles as well as temperature and humidity, is simple yet effective. PVC pipe segments and a clear plastic tube both protect and display parts: two sensors, a microcontroller, narrow tubing, cable, and wires.

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Bailey Hu

Bailey Hu is based in China’s hardware capital, Shenzhen. Her interests include local maker culture, grassroots innovation and how tech shapes society, as well as vice versa.