Asee peer logo

Student-created water quality sensors

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Outreach Along the K-12 Pathways to Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1107.1 - 23.1107.17



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Liesl Hotaling University of South Florida-St. Petersburg

visit author page

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.

visit author page


Susan Lowes Teachers College/Columbia University

visit author page

Dr. Susan Lowes, Director of Research and Evaluation at the Institute for Learning Technologies at Teachers College, Columbia University, has conducted research at both university and K-12 levels, with a focus on STEM learning and on the impact of different technologies on teaching and learning. She has directed evaluations of multi-year projects funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education and the National Science Foundation, and served on Dept. of Education and NSF Advisory and Review panels. Dr. Lowes has co-authored papers and presentations on STEM learning in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics, including, most recently, “Robots Underwater! Learning Science, Engineering and 21st Century Skills: The Evolution of Curricula, Professional Development and Research in Formal and Informal Contexts,” in B. Barker, G. Nugent, N. Grandgenett, and V.I., Adamchuk, eds., Robotics in K-12 Education (Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2012) and (with Liesl Hotaling) of “SENSE IT: Teaching STEM Principles to Middle and High School Students Through the Design, Construction and Deployment of Water Quality Sensors,” Advances in Engineering Education, vol. 3, no. 2 (Summer 2012). She is also Adjunct Professor in the Program in Computers, Communication, Technology, and Education at Teachers College, teaching courses on methodologies for researching technology in education and on online schools and schooling.

visit author page

author page

Rustam Stolkin

author page

Peiyi Lin

Download Paper |


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 high and middle school lessons,tied to the state and national standards in science, math, and technology, that integratefundamental STEM principles while at the same time introducing students to the field of sensorsand sensor networks—technologies that are increasingly important in all fields, but particularlyin the world of environmental research.In this project, students build, calibrate and test a set of sensors and circuits, to measure a varietyof physical quantities. To build and understand their sensors, they must make use of a wide rangeof core knowledge of mathematics and physical science, as well as learning practical hands-ontechnology skills such as soldering and debugging circuits. In later modules, students interfacetheir sensors with computers, and write programs to gather raw signals from the sensors,implement calibration curves, and perform data manipulation and data logging. In later modules,students program their own communications protocols for wireless data transmission, andconnect their computerized sensor stations together to form a distributed wireless sensornetwork. Additional modules explore the use and implications of this technology forenvironmental 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 three years ofclassroom implementation, during which over 60 teachers were equipped, trained on curriculum,and implemented the modules with over 3,000 middle and high school students and resultingmodifications to the lessons. Results show that as students engaged in hands-on problem solving,they learned engineering, math, and physics concepts. Not only did building and testing sensorsengage the students and increase their interest in STEM subjects and careers, but increased theirunderstanding of fundamental concepts of electricity and increased their basic math (algebra)skills and their awareness of water quality as an environmental issue grew as well.

Hotaling, L., & Lowes, S., & Stolkin, R., & Lin, P. (2013, June), Student-created water quality sensors Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22492

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015