An interactive public display that critically relates air quality to heart rate in an effort to create awareness and conversation around heart disease.


Design Criteria:  Take any two existing technologies and create a mashup that addresses a societal concern.

Problem Space: Bring awareness and create conversation around heart disease and air quality by combining existing technologies.

Solution: Combine a heart rate monitor with air quality sensors to create an installation for public space.

My Role: Team Lead

  • Designed and built prototype
  • Programmed with Arduino
  • Documented process via Instructables


Being new to Atlanta, I discovered that a popular nickname is The City in the Forest. I was intrigued because I love the outdoors and gardening.  At 47.9%, Atlanta has the highest percentage of overall urban tree canopy in the nation according to the Urban Tree Canopy Study. However, Atlanta has experienced a decline in the number of trees in the city limits over the last decade.

Trees directly affect air quality and contribute to better overall health for urban citizens.


The USDA Forest Service provides the following acronym:

Temperature reduction and other microclimatic effects

Removal of air pollutants

Emission of volatile organic compounds and tree maintenance emissions

Energy effects on buildings


Background Research

According to the American Heart Association, “growing medical evidence links air pollution and heart disease.” The problem lies in tiny particles measured in parts per million (PPM) that cannot be filtered from the air.

Heart disease is ranked as the leading cause of death worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) released a new study in 2017 that states that heart disease accounted for 15 million deaths in 2015. Research indicates that approximately 30% of those deaths due to heart disease are premature. 

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is an internally accepted scale for sharing air quality but it doesn’t provide accessible or understandable information. The AQI is a aggregate of different units and types of data.

Combining Technologies

Existing Technologies:

Heart Rate Monitor –  A photoresistor  and infrared LED detects change in blood flow through your blood vessels.

Grove Dust Sensor, Air Quality Sensor – Indicates the air quality in an environment by measuring the dust concentration. The Particulate Matter level (PM level) in the air is measured by counting the Low Pulse Occupancy time (LPO time) in given time unit.

Visual Connection

In order to make an impact, the issue has to become part of the community conversation. The form needed to be visible across distances to reach a large audience. The Chinese lantern offers a more organic form and is often used in a group or community gathering. It directly connected to the air and better disseminates LED color.

Physical Connection

A heart rate monitor is a commonly recognized technology; it’s integrated into watches, treadmills and pedometers.

By having to connect physically to a traditional heart rate monitor, the user has to actively participate. This moment creates opportunity for the user to reflect on their role in the environment.

Mental Connection

The color red is often associated with something negative including stopping. The colors red, yellow and green are widely recognizable as a scale. The  air quality sensor data will map to the corresponding color to tell participants whether the air they are breathing is good, okay or bad quality.



 Using an Arduino to combine a heart rate monitor and air quality sensors. The heart rate will pulse accordingly but the LED color will correspond to the Air Quality Index based off the data collected by the sensor.

Design Challenges:

The prototyping process revealed that the AQI is not easily understandable because of the combination/conversion required to get from particulate matter (PPM) to AQI. This barrier prevents people from taking steps to improve air quality because you cannot easily measure progress or trace the cause of bad air quality.


Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) is less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. PM2.5 is a product of combustion, primarily caused by burning fuels. Examples of PM2.5 sources include power plants, vehicles, wood burning stoves, and wildland fires.


A single human hair is approximately 70 micrometers or seven of the largest PM10 particles in diameter. A single human hair is almost 30 times larger than the largest fine particle, PM2.5

Design Contribution

The final output of the project was to contribute our learned knowledge and process to the greater design/build community. We did this by making a How To Guide and posting it on Instructables. We received an award from the Instructables leadership on our contribution for being innovative.

P1 Final Presentation_Final.ppt (1)