Bob Chen ~ Urban Oceanographer

Sensor swan

A Plastic Bird on a Mission

A Milton (MA) middle school teacher and GK-12 WISP Fellow turned to Dr. Bob Chen for help in designing an environmental sensor system with their 7th grade class. Bob and the Center for Environmental Sensing Networks (CESN) took on the project, donating their time to help the 7th graders design the sensor system themselves using technology and engineering standards. (See CESN Managing Director Francesco Peri's story in the video above.) "They figured out what they could measure and wanted to measure," said Bob, "and they figured out that it should look like a duck so that it wouldn't bother the neighbors".

The CESN staff modified the design a bit, turning the duck into a swan so that all of the devices would fit. The swan was launched using a remote controlled launching vehicle and it immediately began collecting data, sending it every fifteen minutes to a webpage. "The students noticed that the water temperature was stratified, so then they could talk about density," said Bob. "Fundamental chemical processes were observed by watching this continuous record of the swan. It is a very successful use of technology education that also integrated the students into that process." The swan was also used in the COSEE New England OSEI.