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Student-created Water Quality Sensors

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

New and Innovative Ideas

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1194.1 - 25.1194.24



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Paper Authors


Liesl Hotaling University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

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Liesl Hotaling is a Senior Research Engineering with the College of Marine Sciences, University of South Florida. She holds a B.A. in marine science, a M.A.T. in science teaching, and a M.S. in maritime systems (ocean engineering). She is a partner in Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence - Networked Ocean World (COSEE-NOW) and specializes in real time data education projects and hands-on STEM educational projects supporting environmental observing networks.

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Susan Lowes Columbia University

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Susan Lowes, Ph.D., is Director of Research and Evaluation at the Institute for Learning Technologies and Adjunct Professor in the Program in Communication, Computers, Technology, and Education at Teachers College/Columbia University, where she teaches courses on research methods and online schooling. She has conducted research at both the university and K-12 levels, with a focus on the impact of technology on teaching and learning, and has directed evaluations of many multi-year projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation (including three ITEST projects), state and local departments of education, and private foundations.

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Peiyi Lin Columbia University

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Rustam Stolkin University of Birmingham

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James S. Bonner Clarkson University


William David Kirkey Clarkson University

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William Kirkey is a doctoral candidate in engineering science at Clarkson University. His present research interests include the development and application of sensors and systems for real-time water quality monitoring.

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Temitope Ojo Clarkson University

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Student-created water quality sensorsSensor development is a topical and highly interdisciplinary field, providing motivatingscenarios for teaching a multitude of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)subjects and skill sets.This paper describes the development and implementation of a carefully scaffolded set of highschool curriculum modules, tied to the state and national standards in science, math, andtechnology, that integrate fundamental STEM principles while at the same time introducingstudents to the field of sensors and sensor networks—technologies that are increasinglyimportant in all fields, but particularly in the world of environmental research.In this project, high school students first build, calibrate and test a set of sensors and circuits, tomeasure a variety of physical quantities. To build and understand their sensors, they must makeuse of a wide range of core knowledge of mathematics and physical science, as well as learningpractical hands-on technology skills such as soldering and debugging circuits. In later modules,students interface their sensors with computers, and write programs to gather raw signals fromthe sensors, implement calibration curves, and perform data manipulation and data logging. Inlater modules, students program their own communications protocols for wireless datatransmission, and connect their computerized sensor stations together to form a distributedwireless sensor network. Additional modules explore the use and implications of this technologyfor environmental research.The project has been highly successful in a wide range of classrooms, including pre-engineering,biology, earth science, physics, chemistry, mathematics and environmental science, for studentsat all academic levels, and in both rural and inner-city schools.This paper will provide an overview of the educational modules, a description of the sensorsbuilt by students, and examples of how these activities are tied to core curricula, enabling themodules to be utilized in regular classes without disrupting the semester’s teaching goals, andwill briefly discuss the benefits of the professional development model through which they wereintroduced to the teachers. We will then present the research results of the first two years ofclassroom implementation, during which 36 teachers were equipped, trained on curriculum, andimplemented the modules with approximately 3,000 middle and high school students. Resultsshow that as students engaged in hands-on problem solving, they learned engineering, math, andphysics concepts. Not only did building and testing sensors engage the students and increasetheir interest in STEM subjects and careers, but increased their understanding of fundamentalconcepts of electricity and increased their basic math (algebra) skills. Furthermore, theirawareness of water quality as an environmental issue grew as well.

Hotaling, L., & Lowes, S., & Lin, P., & Stolkin, R., & Bonner, J. S., & Kirkey, W. D., & Ojo, T. (2012, June), Student-created Water Quality Sensors Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21951

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