92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012: 9:00 AM
Observing Snow and Wind: Using the Environment to Engage Students in Science and Engineering
Room 348/349 (New Orleans Convention Center )
John D. Horel, Univ. of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Our field has rich and diverse resources to observe the atmosphere with state-of-the-art technologies to distribute that information in real time to universities and colleges over the Internet. The 2010 AMS statement on B.S. Degrees in the Atmospheric Sciences highlights the importance of providing undergraduate majors with experience related to meteorological measurement. Until recently, our curriculum at the University of Utah tended to focus on lecture and computer-based assignments related to remote sensing (satellite and radar based observations) at the expense of hands-on laboratory experience with instruments that directly sense the atmosphere.

A major revision to our undergraduate curriculum was implemented during Fall 2010. Among other changes, we now rely on half-semester courses to provide focused instruction on selected topics including a half-semester course on Environmental Instrumentation for undergraduate majors coupled with a semester-length course for graduate students. With support from the NSF Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (TUES) program and a substantive equipment donation from Campbell Scientific, Inc., we have developed an instrumentation laboratory used for instruction for non-science as well as science majors. The course instruction in this on-campus laboratory is oriented towards two primary educational goals: (1) increase student proficiency related to the underlying principles and sources of uncertainty associated with environmental instrumentation and (2) enhance student confidence to use technologies to observe the environment. One of the most successful activities was to involve undergraduate STEM majors either as volunteers or enrolled in a half-semester course in a major NSF-funded field project: the Persistent Cold-Air Pool Study. See http://pcaps.utah.edu for extensive information on the field project and student participation. Faculty and student feedback related to the curriculum changes and development of the instrument laboratory will be discussed.

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