Break | AIChE


The emergence of commodity sensors is changing the way we think about pollution measurements, and it offers a great opportunity to engage citizens in understanding and addressing environmental challenges. We have been partnering with community members and students across Utah’s Salt Lake Valley as citizen scientists who work with an interdisciplinary team of researchers to create a distributed online network of approximately 100 low-cost, air-quality sensors. This region periodically experiences some of the worst particulate matter (PM) pollution episodes in the country. Our network provides dynamic neighborhood-scale PM estimates, and it has captured dramatic differences in PM concentration resulting from persistent cold air pools, fireworks, wildfires, and dust events that would not be evident from the regulatory monitors alone. I will highlight how our team addresses community engagement as well as data quality, integration, and visualization. Through outreach efforts to local schools, we also engaged students as citizen scientists through activities that: (1) allow them to build their own light-scattering based PM sensor from building blocks and simple electronics; (2) train them on how to be good sensor hosts; and (3) help them make sense of real-world data. Citizen science poses a number of challenges, and I will describe some of these and strategies to address them.