Research Aims to Utilize Technology and Citizen Science to Record and Broadcast Environment Data

First Posted: May 31, 2014 06:49 AM EDT

The National Science Foundation has awarded Boston College with a two-year, $200,000 grant that will allow Professor G. Michael Barnett and undergraduate researchers to use technology for disseminating pertinent environmental data to the public.

Mr. Barnett is an associate professor of science education and technology at Boston College's Lynch School of Education. As the grant's principal investigator, Barnett and his undergraduate researchers will use the Air Quality Egg project to collect air quality data in local Boston neighborhoods and then provide the public with the environmental information that is gathered. The egg-shaped sensor does all the work.

The Air Quality Egg is a sensor system designed for anyone who desires to collect the quality of air outside of their home - particularly very high-resolution readings of NO2 and CO concentrations, which are the gases most associated with urban air pollution. This enables the everyday individual to search for his or her own environmental answers as well as participate in the conversation about air quality.

Barnett's "Know Your Air" project will place these egg sensors in Boston neighborhoods of Brighton, West Roxbury, Dorchester, Roxbury, West Roxbury, South End, South Boston, Mattapan, and Hyde Park. Sensors will also be placed in a number of other cities and towns to provide comparative analysis. The project is scheduled to expand across the U.S. to Los Angeles, Louisville, Kansas City, Worcester, and Pittsburgh within the next few months/years.

"Our goal is to provide access to scientific data and analyses that are understandable and of interest to the general public in a way that does not require a visit to a museum," said Barnett, in this Boston College Office of News & Public Affairs release. "People will see science in their everyday lives, in the places where they regularly walk, visit, or spend their time."

Egg sensors are already registered in Boston, which you can see thanks to software engineers in the Louisville Innovation Office. The movement to incorporate these sensors into everyday life is underway, and, although it's a scientific cause, it can also be considered philanthropic. Just two months ago, the World Health Organization estimated that in 2012 there were 7 million premature deaths as a result of air pollution. The Air Quality Egg project and Barnett's local efforts are likely to revolutionize the way we retrieve environmental information.

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