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Public Lab Research note

Pollution to Solution: First Research Note 1, 10/14/14

by epongrat | October 14, 2014 20:52 14 Oct 20:52 | #11263 | #11263

What I want to do

My plan is to purchase sensor-based technology to detect air pollution and to locate areas that have potential for solar energy development in Springfield. My research will be titled “Pollution-to-Solution”. My advisor Charles Schweik and I will put together sensor-based technology using PublicLab as a community forum to share ideas and best practices using do-it-yourself technology.

I will need various components to collect data. Using ozone and nitrogen dioxide sensors, I will gather air quality data at the schools in Springfield, areas of high traffic, and areas surrounding the power plant in West Springfield. I plan to use a temperature and humidity sensor, a barometer, an anemometer, and a magnetic compass module to measure variables that will influence pollution concentrations. I will need a tripod or similar equipment to support the sensors for long periods of time at the level of roughly 5 to 6 feet off the ground. I plan to use several photocells to detect sunlight on brownfields in Springfield during daylight hours. I will place these sensors in four corners of a field, approximately 6 feet off the ground, possibly with tripods, and roughly the height of a potential solar array. I plan to power my sensor–based technology with a battery pack, and a small solar panel loaned to me from a Chemistry professor at UMass. I plan to use a microcontroller kit called an Arduino kit to collect data. Due to the Arduino’s limited storage capacity, I will also use a data logger to store the data. I also plan on using a GPS to track the data I collect.

Once I have assembled the necessary technology, I will collect data scheduled periodically until March 2015. Around April of 2015, I will be able to use the the GPS coordinates in a Geographic Information System to overlay my data onto one comprehensive map that will show the areas of poor air quality and areas that have potential for solar energy development.

My attempt and results

  1. Applied for funding from the UMass iCons Program and from Dr. Paula Rees and Charles Schweik. Received only $115 out of $450 needed.
  2. Purchased a sainsmart ozone sensor module, an adafruit data logging shield and an arduino kit.
  3. Soldered the data logging shield onto the arduino with collaborator Daniel Smoliga.
  4. Borrowed SD card from Daniel.
  5. Set the dat and time on the data logger with Daniel.
  6. Tried to test the light resistor that came with the arduino kit. Couldn't figure out how to code the circuit.




Questions and next steps

  1. How do I code the light resistor circuit so that the data logger collects data that shows me any change in light in the room?
  2. Any ideas for where I could apply for funding for my project?
  3. Any ideas on where I can purchase the items listed above, cheaply?
  4. I am communicating with the Pioneer Valley Action Coalition to discuss collaboration.
  5. I am meeting with Professor Rick Peltier to discuss measuring gases.

Why I'm interested

Citizens are concerned with the effects that poor air quality can have on respiratory related issues, including asthma. I am working with a faculty member named Sylvia Brandt from the Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition. The coalition is concerned that ozone and nitrogen dioxide may be resulting in the onset of asthma as well as exacerbating asthma, which leads to attacks. The Coalition is particularly interested in determining if idling cars and buses are contributing to unhealthy air for students and faculty at schools.

An organization called Mom’s Clean Air Force lists ozone as a common air pollutant that triggers asthma attacks and may worsen a person’s existing asthma condition. They claim that lung function is reduced and emergency room visits due to asthma are increased on days when ozone concentrations are high. They explain that ozone is a byproduct of fossil fuel power plants, diesel engines, and cars. They also list nitrogen dioxide as an asthma trigger, which may make young children more susceptible to respiratory infections. Even short-term exposure has been linked to airway inflammation in healthy people. They explain that nitrogen dioxide quickly accumulates from car, bus, and power plant emissions.


These are a bunch of great ideas! Can you explain how the sensor will help you decide where to place solar panels?

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I'm not positive it will work. My arduino kit came with a small photoresistor, pictured here. IMG_6267.JPG

I asked my advisor, Charlie Schweik to purchase an adafruit datalogger shield. Myself and my peer, Daniel Smoliga have soldered the datalogger shield onto my arduino using Daniel's solderer and materials in the UMass Amherst electrical engineering department. I'm planning on purchasing a tripod. I will research brownfields (open spaces that have been abandoned) in Springfield. I'm planning on purchasing a GPS shield to track where I collect data. I plan to go to these brownfields on sunny days, prop up my contraption onto the tripod and set it up in 4 corners of the brownfield. I will try to collect data for hours at a time and I plan to to collect data starting next month and ending in April. I will download data off of the datalogger and onto a computer and calibrate the readings it gives me. I will use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map out the brownfields and categorize them with colors that determine great, okay or bad for solar arrays.

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