GASPER Air Congress

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Hotline, Summer 1997

By Sue Seppi, GASP Vice President

As you may remember from previous Hotlines, GASP has been implementing an educational air monitoring project over the last school year (1996-1997) thanks to a grant from the Howard Heinz Endowment. The monitor, named, what else, the GASPER, has been used in twelve schools on a two week rotating basis. The students were able to log data using the GASPER’s eleven sensors (CO2, CO, O3, NO2, SO2, ionizing radiation, extremely low frequency radiation, wind speed and direction, temperature and relative humidity. Additionally, there is a sample pump for communities that might want to test an air quality problem. After logging the data in the GASPER, which is about the size of a medium suitcase, the students can download it into a computer with special software that will print the data in report or graph format.

The students and teachers did some interesting investigations taking the GASPER all around Allegheny County and beyond, from highways to state parks to the Indiana Cogeneration Plant as well as monitoring various rooms and areas of individual schools.

The data was not always as expected and provided ample ground for new hypotheses. Being able to do an inquiry into the unknown and form hypotheses and new investigations around the results provided teachers and students with some of the skills needed in typical scientific investigations. Researching various air components also led to discussions of air quality issues guided by a hefty packet of local news articles that accompanies the GASPER and background information about standards included in the software. GASP hopes that students and teachers will be stimulated to get involved in the sometimes complex issues that surround air quality regulations such as the new ozone and 2.5 particulate standards of recent prominence because we are all affected by these issues through our health, quality of life and economic atmosphere.

The year was concluded with many of the schools coming together for an end of the year event, The GASPER Air Congress, where students made dynamite presentations about their investigations and hypotheses. Later everyone had lunch and attended workshops. It was an enlightening and fun day.

This September, we start our second year and have reserved a few open weeks to allow some new schools/communities to participate. If this sounds like something you would like to see in your school or use in your community, please call GASP, but do so as soon as possible.