Sensing the Environment: Environmental Sensor Outreach in the Classroom

Oral Presentation

Prepared by R. McIntosh-Kastrinsky1, L. Phelps2
1 - ASPPH/USEPA, 109 TW Alexander Dr, Mail Code D343-05, Research Triangle Park, NC, 27709, United States
2 - US EPA, 109 TW Alexander Dr, Mail Code D343-05, Research Triangle Park, NC, 27709, United States

Contact Information: [email protected]; 919-541-7569


As the desire for data and information increases, so has the technology to obtain information. More and more companies, organizations and academics are creating low cost environmental sensors for use by anyone. These personal environmental monitors (PEMs) allow citizens to be scientists by learning about and sharing their environmental data. Citizen science is an emerging field aided by sensors such as PEMs and the prevalence and availability of smartphones and tablets, since many of these sensors are used in conjunction with a tablet or smartphone (iOS or Android compatible). PEMs and citizen science can help individuals learn more about their environment and help improve availability of data and information about their surrounding environment. However, it is important to provide education and outreach to citizens on how to use the devices and their quality. This outreach and education project teaches and works through the after school program Citizen Schools at Neal Middle School in Durham, NC to improve understanding and use of PEMs, specifically the Sensordrone (Sensorcon), Air Quality Egg (Wicked Devices), Anemometer (Vaavud), and Osorb (ABS Materials). Through this Citizen Schools 10-week program, students learn to utilize new technology, how the environment can affect their health and how PEMs can assist in improving their health and the environment. By being citizen scientists and using different PEMs, students learn the different information quality of devices and how to interpret the different types of information instruments provide. With this knowledge, students are able to appropriately use a PEM to help them understand their personal environment, improve their health and help others understand PEMs and the environment.