Weather sta­tion brings sun­shine to once seedy al­ley­way

In­ter­ac­tive de­vice seen as way to in­volve com­mu­nity, kids and McMaster stu­dents

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - CARMELA FRAGOMENI cfragomeni@thes­pec.com 905-526-3392 | @Car­matTheSpec

A colour­ful, funky and un­con­ven­tional weather sta­tion in the El­gin Street Al­ley adds a touch of art and prac­ti­cal­ity to this once run­down stretch in Beasley, one of the city’s poor­est neigh­bour­hoods.

The weather sta­tion, made of bits and pieces of valves, pipes and gauges, is another step in a se­ries taken to clean up a de­crepit, ne­glected laneway — once known as Lis­ter­ine Al­ley — and make it a safe, at­trac­tive and us­able so­cial space for the com­mu­nity.

“It’s kind of a barom­e­ter of change in the neigh­bour­hood — from Lis­ter­ine Al­ley where the marginal­ized peo­ple used to be … to a green al­ley pro­ject,” says Char­lie Mat­tina, who first sug­gested the weather sta­tion.

“It’s all about change and build­ing re­silience in the face of change. It’s also a good tool to en­gage res­i­dents with what is around them,” he said

The sta­tion, which will mon­i­tor weather, pol­lu­tion, noise, and tem­per­a­tures, is lo­cated at the Can­non Street end of the al­ley — the al­ley it­self is be­tween El­gin and Mary streets.

It is also a joint pro­ject of the Beasley Neigh­bour­hood As­so­ci­a­tion, the stu­dents of Dr. Edgar Davey Ele­men­tary School and McMaster Univer­sity en­gi­neer­ing stu­dents, who vol­un­teered their time to teach the kids about it and computer skills.

The sta­tion’s data will be col­lected once its mi­cro­con­troller, the de­vice gath­er­ing the data, is de­vel­oped and in­stalled, and it will be given to the city so it can gauge pol­lu­tion and noise in the neigh­bour­hood.

Louise Gaz­zola of McMaster, who co-or­di­nated the stu­dent in­volve­ment says: “If pol­lu­tion is too high, or noise is too high, it can in­form fu­ture city work in the neigh­bour­hood.” But the sta­tion has ad­di­tional func­tions. Mat­tina ex­plains that “we de­cided to make it into a sculp­ture and also have it be in­ter­ac­tive” with mov­ing pieces that kids can play with.

It also has a sym­bolic tie to the al­ley’s past be­cause, Mat­tina says, “weather im­pacts the vul­ner­a­ble the most.”

The sta­tion was re­cently re­painted, along with the wall of the garage it sits in front of, to raise aware­ness about home­less­ness.

The bright colours and painted words came from the Women’s Hous­ing Plan­ning Col­lab­o­ra­tive, who ex­pressed how they feel about home­less­ness, Mat­tina said.

Neigh­bour­hood res­i­dent Lisa Watt got in­volved in the pro­ject af­ter see­ing a post­ing propos­ing the sta­tion on Face­book.

“I thought it was a great idea,” she says, ad­ding she par­tic­u­larly loved the idea of in­volv­ing her chil­dren’s school and “get­ting chil­dren in­spired at an early age.”

Watt said the school sys­tem of­ten re­lies on par­ents to raise ex­tra money for ac­tiv­i­ties and even learn­ing.

But in a low-in­come neigh­bour­hood like Beasley, this pro­ject, with its Mac stu­dent vol­un­teers, al­lowed Dr. Edgar Davey stu­dents to learn from them about computer pro­gram­ming and elec­tron­ics us­ing ar­duino mi­cro­con­trollers.

“The kids are very ex­cited. They see what they can do with cor­rect cod­ing.”

PHO­TOS BY BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

The weather sta­tion was re­cently painted as part of an ini­tia­tive to raise aware­ness about home­less­ness. Beasley is one of the city’s poor­est neigh­bour­hoods.

The Beasley Neigh­bour­hood As­so­ci­a­tion has part­nered with McMaster en­gi­neer­ing stu­dents to build a mon­i­tor­ing sta­tion to track pol­lu­tion, noise and tem­per­a­ture.

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