Air Pollution and Asthma - Middle School Girls Feature SPECK in Video Competition Entry

Allegheny Traditional Academy middle school girls engaged in the after school program STEM Stars focused their Carnegie Science Center i5 Digital Video competition entry on Air Pollution and Asthma.  SPECK played a feature role as the girls used the monitors to assess the air quality in their own school.  Check out their culminating video:

STEM Stars, a joint program between the Carnegie Science Center and the YWCA, targets middle school girls in Allegheny County.  The goal of STEM Stars is to improve academic achievement and increase interest in and awareness of STEM topics and careers.

-guest post by Cathy Rohrer

Speck Monitor Empowers Citizen Scientists

The Speck air quality monitor was mentioned in a recent article by NPR's StateImpact series. The article focuses on citizen scientists and the impact their data can have on scientific research and activism. Part of the article covered the Citizen Sense project from the University of London. As part of the project, researchers gave Speck monitors to people living near natural gas development in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna county. The main interest of the project is not the air quality readings but what the residents do with the data.

The full article can be found here.

Website for the project can be found here.

Speck Used in Biodiesel Experiment

Students at Paonia High School wanted to test the “green” claims of biodiesel against the “non-green” stereotype of standard diesel fuel. They created two different biodiesel fuels from both used and unused vegetable oil, and also purchased standard diesel fuel. 

They then tested each of the three fuels by burning them separately in a controlled experiment at the school laboratory, and collected data to see which produced the least amount of air pollutants. The Speck air quality monitor from the Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab and air quality monitors from University of Colorado captured the combustion byproducts, documenting produced particulates, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds.

Paonia High School students Cameron Van Vleet and Noah Haswell conduct a "burn-test" on biodiesel in an experiment they made for the science fair

The students’ experiment was successful.  Biodiesel made from unused vegetable oil created the least amount of pollutants, but also did not burn as hot as the other fuels – raising questions of efficiency. Another area of interest is a “lag” between the production of particulates and carbon dioxide, as seen in the following graph. The students continue to analyze these results, but have concluded that a revised experiment design and additional tests are needed.

But those tests will have to wait. This team of student scientists is currently busy preparing their results for the Colorado State Science and Engineering Fair.

More info about Speck can be found here.

* Update: We are excited to announce that the trio of students who qualified for the state science fair were awarded $15,000 in scholarships! This is the first time in six years that a student from this particular school qualified for the state fair, let alone was awarded a scholarship. Many congratulations to the students and their teachers!