Sky-high science helps students explore air quality
Students in an after-school science club at Hardin Park Elementary School got some really hands-on experience recently when they helped launch a weather balloon near Appalachian State University's AppalAIR research facility.
"The students were able to participate in the whole process of preparing and inflating a weather balloon, preparing the radiosonde and releasing the balloon," said Baker Perry, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography.
The students also recorded data transmitted to the AppalAIR facility from the radiosonde, a radio transmitting unit that measures various conditions in the upper atmosphere.
The students are in a science education outreach program funded by a NASA grant designed to promote climate science awareness, and improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics education (STEM).
The three-year project is called CAN-DOO for Climate Action Network through Direct Observations and Outreach.
"The students will analyze the data from the radiosonde and compare it with satellite and other upper air observations," Perry said.
The program is coordinated by chemistry assistant professor Brett Taubman, physics associate professor Jim Sherman and Perry, all from the College of Arts and Sciences.
The grant was awarded to Appalachian through the Department of Chemistry, the Research Institute for the Environment, Energy and Economics and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs in the Cratis D. Williams Graduate School.
Taubman, Perry, graduate student Ginger Kelly and undergraduates from the university will establish a similar science club at Bethel Elementary School this fall.
Students in both clubs will participate in a variety of hands-on climate science activities after school, including recording temperature, precipitation, relative humidity and solar radiation with equipment installed at their school with funds from the NASA grant.
Similar equipment is being installed to augment the weather monitoring equipment already in place at Grandfather Mountain.
Visitors there will learn about the weather extremes at Grandfather and help take weather readings.
"This grant has facilitated a wonderful opportunity to engage elementary school students and citizen scientists in activities related to a better understanding of the atmosphere, weather and climate," Perry said.