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Pupils use mobile technologies to monitor pollution on the way to school

Pupils from two UK schools will be using prototype mobile phone technology and sensors to monitor pollution levels on their journey to and from school over the next two weeks.

The project is part of a three-year, £3.6 million research programme looking into how new technologies can help people take a more active interest in their local environment.

The sixty pupils involved in the project, from Hayesfield School Technology College in Bath and Castle School in Thornbury near Bristol, have been given prototype mobile phones fitted with sound sensors and data loggers which will monitor carbon monoxide levels.

The pupils, aged 13-15 years, will use them to measure their exposure to carbon monoxide and noise pollution over the next fortnight to work out what influences pollution levels in their local environment.

Back in the classroom, they will be able to view their data alongside pictures of the location in which they collected their readings. They will be able to compare the data they collect with scientists and members of the public.

By the end of the Participate project, researchers hope to have developed mobile phone pollution sensors and downloadable software that will enable people throughout the country to collect and analyse their own pollution data.

“We hope that the Participate project will evolve into a mass experiment where people throughout the country can monitor their local environment and contribute their findings to the wider community,” said Dr Danaë Stanton Fraser, one of the lead researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath.

“New technology such as GPS, mobile phones and environmental sensors give us a great opportunity to raise awareness and encourage debate around environmental issues.

“We need to understand how this might work and how these kinds of technologies can influence learning, both in schools and also by the public at large, enabling a deeper understanding of scientific issues.”

The Participate research project is a collaboration between the universities of Bath and Nottingham, Science Scope, BT, BBC, Microsoft Research and Blast Theory. It is funded by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Andrew McLaughlin | alfa
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