Sunday, 14 January 2007
SOAP: An undergraduate education and research program to measure and understand the climatology of storms in Southeast Texas
Exhibit Hall C (Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center)
The Student Operational ADRAD Project (SOAP) at Texas A&M University offers students hands-on experience in establishing a long-term storm climatology in Southeast Texas through radar operation and meteorological data archival. In Spring 2006, 26 undergraduates (16 juniors and seniors, 10 freshmen and sophomores) participated in SOAP. Graduate students and a faculty advisor trained upper-level undergraduate group leaders to guide the remaining undergraduates in daily weather observations and radar operations of the S-band radar (ADRAD) located on the roof of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences building. Each day of the week, a SOAP group was responsible for monitoring local and synoptic conditions and operating the radar when precipitation was in the region. Daily activities also included producing a precipitation forecast, archiving satellite and sounding products, and making cloud observations. SOAP students operating the radar chose appropriate scan strategies, monitored data collection, and explored the various structures of precipitating systems that occur in the region using Sigmet's Interactive Radar Information System (IRIS). SOAP will continue for the next four years and has other applications, including being integrated into a week-long summer diversity program and a fall radar course.
SOAP is part of a broader NSF CAREER project that has a research goal to better understand how storms interact with the larger scale circulation in Southeast Texas. Student involvement in SOAP is essential to data collection and analysis in support of this research goal. Furthermore, involvement in SOAP enables students to understand the intricacies of field studies and data collection and to better appreciate the research process. By enhancing the learning experience of undergraduates through observational research and direct interaction with faculty and graduate students, undergraduates are motivated to excel in atmospheric sciences and are prepared for further education at the graduate level.