Tracking the weather enlivens classroom Students learn latest methods EAST COLUMBIA

April 06, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Hammond High School freshman Steve Seely had notions when storms were brewing during the soggy month of March, but they didn't come from watching the Weather Channel.

His forecasts were gleaned from monitoring the weather satellite receiving station that has been set up in the classroom of Hammond High earth science teacher Sylvia Huestis. The technology allows students to detect and track the movement of warm and cold fronts, analyze cloud cover and study water and ground temperatures in the eastern part of North America.

"We saw the big snowstorm and the rainstorm occur on the computer," Steve said. "Usually when there are formations of a front, there's going to be a storm."

The Columbia Amateur Radio Association has teamed with Hammond High to establish the station, the first one of its kind in a Howard County school, Mrs. Huestis said. The station allows students to track the orbits of four National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites, and call up computer-generated infrared images indicating varying ground and water temperatures and cloud intensities and altitudes.

"The benefit is that students will have a little bit of exposure to new technology," said Mrs. Huestis. "I think it's more the real world than labs you set up in the classroom. Labs in school are a false setting often times. If all through school that's how students see science, they're not seeing what it's really like."

Steve agrees that working with the meteorology technology is more interesting than traditional school science labs.

"You get to interact with other

things besides the paper," he said.

The station has been in place at the school since January. Columbia Amateur Radio Association members helped develop the technology at the school's request and helped train school staff in its use.

"Our club has a history of using electronic knowledge and communication skills to help the public in var

ious ways," said radio association member David Nace of Clarksville, an electronics engineer at the Goddard Space Flight Center. "We were looking for ways to get kids interested in electronics, communications and amateur radio."

The station includes a receiver that is connected to an outdoor antenna, two computers, an electronic

imaging card that translates the signals into images and computer software that allows satellites to be tracked. The system cost about $1,500 to $2,000 to construct, and was financed through proceeds from the radio association's annual electronics flea market, said Mr. Nace.

Each student in Mrs. Huestis' class will use the station for a month

at a time, collecting and analyzing data about five times during that period. The classes work on the project once a week.

Mrs. Huestis said she hopes to incorporate the project into the regular curriculum next year.

"I see this as a tool that can be used by students of every ability level," she said.

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