4.5 The Central Texas Collaborative Air Quality Monitoring Experiment

Tuesday, 8 January 2019: 11:30 AM
North 229AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Rebecca Paulsen Edwards, Southwestern Univ., Georgetown, TX

An air quality research study was designed to be contained within an undergraduate Energy and the Environment course, an upper division physics course which was cross-listed with environmental studies. The course focused on the environmental impact of energy consumption, from extraction of fuel to renewable energy. In support of the experiment, this offering of the course spent additional time discussing emissions from fossil fuel burning, air pollution transport, and atmospheric composition. Instrumentation and balloon expendables were purchased through an internal university sustainability grant. In addition to curricular material related to air quality, students were required to do several things related to the experiment. First, they attended a day-long ozonesonde training workshop at St. Edward’s University in Austin. During the workshop, the students learned the basics of air quality science, learned to condition and prepare the ozonesonde instrument for launch, and launched an ozonesonde. Second, the students were required to participate in launches at the home campus. Students were required to attend one each of the following activities: a) The advanced preparation of the ozonesonde, b) The flight day preparation of the ozonesonde, and c) The launch. Since there were four launches, there were multiple opportunities for students to attend the required activities. After launches, there were data discussions during regular class time to contextualize the data with the current weather conditions. One challenge which arose during the project was the unpredictable nature of the launches. Students require notice before a required class activity so that they can make appropriate arrangements for work, homework, and other classes and the decision to launch was often made with only a day or two of notice. Some attempt was made to ameliorate this problem by being flexible with the students, allowing them to come to as much or as little of a given activity as they could, and providing ample opportunities for participation in the experiment. Based on evaluations, the students found the weather balloon experiment meaningful, beneficial to their understanding of the material, and valuable.
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