Sensational Buoys Workshop: citizens sensing and urban waters

26-27 June 2021 - Zoom

Media Architecture Biennale -


The online workshop Sensational Buoys aims to explore the intersection between citizen sensing, toyification and monitoring urban waters. The workshop is dedicated to the design and realisation of “Sensational Buoys”: small floating devices equipped with simple sensors and having a playful appearance. The buoys are playful devices to sense and visualize data about urban waters and are intended to raise awareness about the importance of monitoring our environment.

NB Previous experience with coding and/or electronics is not required.

Citizens sensing and toyification

“Citizen sensing” means redistributing the power and ability of using sensors and monitoring our environment to citizens and communities. It is a way to promote awareness about the environment we live in and can be an empowerment tool fostering discussion and inspiring citizens to take action. Toyification is a subset of gamification: the attempt to use toys and toy-like objects to support creativity, curiosity and exploration. The Sensational Buoys, then, will be characterised by a toy-like aesthetics as a way to make them more enticing, so that they can engage participants and passersby in the activity and draw attention to the project.


The workshop will be divided in two parts: one dedicated to the speculative, collaborative design of Sensational Buoys and one dedicated to the realisation and testing.

UPDATE: The MicroBit has been out of stock worldwide for a while and, in the beginning of June, we decided to change the structure of the workshop accordingly. As we could not predict when it would be available again, and as it was too late to find and prepare another accessible solution that integrates a microcontroller, display and sensor - we decided to reduce the workshop to 1 day only: Saturday 26.

On this date we will proceed with the speculative design workshop, but we will also spend some time discussing possible practical ways and technologies to further develop our sensing devices. Therefore, if you do not have the microcontroller, you will still be allowed to participate meaningfully. Instead, if you have already bought the MicroBit you will be able to use it in the workshop: we will explain how to use it with the buoys and include it in your design.

So, the Sensational Buoys Workshop will be a single day activity on Saturday 26th June at 15:00-18:00 CEST.

The workshop will be held online via Zoom. The participants can attend the workshop and build their own buoy wherever they are in the World.

First part: Speculative design

Saturday 26-June 15:00-18:00 CET

The first part of the workshop will be dedicated to a free speculative exploration of how sensational buoys can be constructed and used. Facilitators and participants will discuss how citizen sensing can be applied to monitoring different kinds of urban waters. With the help of the facilitators, the participants will work in groups and engage in activities of participatory speculative design where they will be allowed to experiment and create in a free way. A final discussion and presentation of the different projects will close the first day.


Participants are invited to prepare some materials for low-fi prototyping (such as cardboard, scissors, drawing materials, toys etc.).

~~### Second part: Create your buoy! ~~

Sunday 27-June 15:00-18:00 CET

The second part of the workshop will be dedicated to the realisation of some Sensational Buoys made of recycled and craft materials and of a MicroBit board. The participants will create floating devices able to measure temperature near the water surface and display the collected information. The Sensational Buoys are not meant to collect scientifically accurate data, but to introduce the participants to the basics of citizen sensing in the urban water environment. The participants will learn to program the microcontroller that has a built-in sensor and led matrix. According to the available craft material, they will create a floating vessel to host a toy figure and the microcontroller.


In order to be able to actively participate to the second day, the participants will be asked to buy the following materials:

“Sensational Award”

At the end of the workshop, the participants will vote for the most interesting, curious and fun Buoy. The makers will receive the symbolical “Sensational Award” for their work and design.

Procedures for signing up

Deadline 25th May 2021

Participants will be able to sign up for the workshop until the 25th of May. In the sign-up procedure they will be asked some basic information (name, email, level of proficiency with coding and/or electronics) as well as to indicate in which parts of the workshop they intend to participate. It is possible to participate only in one of the two parts, but participants planning to attend both will be given precedence.

Register your participation in Sensational Buoys Workshop at the following link:

Workshop hosts

Mattia Thibault, Tampere University -

Artur Cordeiro, independent researcher -