PublicSensors: Integrating student-built environmental sensors for community science into the classroom
PublicSensors (and its Spanish language counterpart SensoresPublicos) is an educational initiative promoting STEM literacy through hands-on construction and use of environmental sensors, collection of community science-based data, and data interpretation. These active learning experiences provide exposure to engineering principles and skills that may benefit students beyond their educational endeavors and facilitate an understanding of environmental science through local hands-on applications. PublicSensors aims to address underserved K-12 through college students and their families by increasing access to technology-based science for diverse audiences, incorporating Next Generation Science Standards through technology and community outreach.
PublicSensors leads sensor-building workshops for both remote and in-person learning with flexible grade-level content. Students and their families are loaned free activity kits, enabling them to construct environmental sensors (e.g. temperature, light, acoustic distance) and use them to study their own local environment. Using a tiered system of engagement, students first learn basic circuit building with beginner kits, then transition to intermediate kits where they build data loggers, and finally build advanced sensors that collect and report data in real-time. Students can also interact with their sensors via computer, gaining proficiency in computer science concepts through Python-based activities that enable further exploration of their sensors. Additional classroom modules are available adapting these basic sensors for underwater sonar and pH sensing.
PublicSensors has conducted sensor-building programs for 5th grade through undergraduate students, as well as professional development training for high school teachers. Materials in both English and Spanish are freely available at PublicSensors.org and SensoresPublicos.org, with options to follow structured lessons or modify activities based on available resources, and require no previous technical experience. PublicSensors plans to serve as a community hub where participants can engage across classrooms and communities to share their experiences and environmental data.