Budding scientists research air pollution


The new generation of future scientists has delivered air quality findings to Alexandra residents.
Alexandra Primary School pupils recorded smoke levels in their homes for three months from June to August, with sensors developed by Niwa (the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research).
Last week the data was presented to the community at a public meeting. The meeting also included an exhibition from the pupils.
In terms of working towards solutions, age has proven to be no barrier for brainstorming.
The pupils were encouraged to make their own sensors and Niwa air quality scientist Dr Ian Longley said he would be inspecting their ideas.
One pupil had an air quality sensor in the shape of a dog that wagged its tail when it was happy.
‘‘That’s the kind of stuff that could be worth doing . . . It’s about keeping the kids engaged.’’
Alexandra was known for having one of the worst air quality levels in the country, Dr Longley said.
He said the findings of the Alexandra pupils confirmed what scientists already believed.
‘‘A lot of the data showed what we thought was the case, but never had hard evidence for. We were able to show that although smoke was being generated across town, light winds are shifting it to one side.’’
How air quality levels differed from home to home was more unpredictable, Dr Longley said.
‘‘It was greater variation than I was expecting.
‘‘We’ll be looking at the data and trying to figure out the reasons.’’
Dr Longley said Niwa would continue discussions with the Central Otago District Council about the project and its findings.

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