Middle school has new high-tech weather station for science and math

by Kate Evans

Warm Springs Middle School has a new cutting-edge WeatherStem meteorology system and weather station with real-time data that was up and running as of September 19.

Middle school eighth grade science teacher Charles Wilson said he applied for the WeatherSTEM weather station program through American Public University System (APUS) in Charles Town. WeatherSTEM Director of Infrastructure Luke Hunnewell from Tallahassee, Florida installed the weather station at the middle school in late July.

WeatherSTEM is part of UCompass, a Tallahassee-based software and services company supporting over three million students at more than 200 educational institutions, including APUS. It has installed APUS-donated systems in Jefferson County Schools including Blue Ridge Elementary in Harpers Ferry, Jefferson High School and Ranson Elementary.

The high-tech WeatherSTEM system equipment which the university donated for Warm Springs Middle School cost $6,500 and the university is also providing $1,500 for the system’s computer maintenance, which is mostly keeping the website up-to-date, Wilson said. Technology Director Tom Shade also helped with the technical set-up of the system and he and Wilson have assisted with its maintenance.

The web-based platform uses data from weather instruments, agricultural probes, web cameras and multiple sensors to provide STEM education and enhanced student learning opportunities using live meteorological data for classroom science and math activities with real-world applications.

Weather station functions

The WeatherSTEM weather station has 18 different functions that include measuring temperature, heat index, wind chill, humidity, rainfall and hourly precipitation rate, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, wind gusts, the dew point, solar radiation and the UV (ultraviolet radiation) index. It can also track the closest lightning strikes, said Wilson.

Historical data that the weather station system tracks includes 24-hour, monthly and annual rainfall along with normal high and low temperatures and record highs and lows. The webpage also gives a four-day weather forecast and has a sky video that shows the view of the horizon from their location.

WeatherSTEM administrative coordinator Raegan Boyd said that their high-resolution cloud camera captures weather conditions for the last 24 hours and updates every minute. They piece together a sky video at the end of each day. Middle school administrators can also set up weather alerts that can be accessed school-wide and also posted on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Has pre-made lessons

WeatherSTEM provides STEM-based education that’s aligned to standards for elementary to high school students and has over 100 pre-made math and science lessons that teachers can use and students can access which pull in data from the school’s weather station, Boyd said. Lessons are interactive and fun and are tied to things students can connect with, like how the weather may affect the football game they’re watching this weekend.

Wilson took his eighth grade science classes outside to see the weather station and introduced them to its different functions. Wilson said his science classes will be able to analyze and graph weather and climate data and that students will be able to track rainfall and temperature long-term and put them into graphs in math class.

Wilson thought weather station data on weather and climate could possibly be used in sixth and seventh grade social studies if it related to geography and geology standards. He noted that the weather station data would be available online to any middle school teacher that would want to use it in the classroom. The system also has apps for I-phone and Androids.

Wilson is looking forward to this week’s webinar training on the WeatherSTEM system to learn more about the weather system functions and get different ideas for more potential uses in the classroom across grade levels and in different subjects.

“Anything real-world helps get kids interested in learning,” Wilson said.

In an earlier press release, Dr. Conrad Lotze American Public University System senior vice president and associate provost of academic services, said the WeatherStem systems were a tremendous opportunity to ignite a passion for scientific learning at an early stage. The university is committed to providing programs and resources that create pathways to career success and benefit communities. Their partnership with WeatherSTEM and UCompass “helps bridge the gap between technology and traditional learning outcomes for local students.”