Scientists in Schools

School sensing new technologies

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  • Peter Crofts & Brett Smith, The Hutchins School, Hobart, TAS
  • Andrew Terhorst, CSIRO ICT Centre

It's not often that teachers and their students have the opportunity to use the latest technology when devising their experiments. But at The Hutchins School, Year 11/12 Environmental Science students are using a CSIRO-developed sensor network to conduct research into plant water usage at the school.

Under the supervision of Andrew Terhorst, Year 8 students set up a mini Sensor Web in a small plot at the school. This measures soil water tension and a mobile telephone sensor networking application (developed by the students) reads the water meters.
Now that the Year 8s have established the plot, the Year 11/12 students will be using the Sensor Web to monitor water use.

Andrew describes how the Sensor Pod works

They will be able to measure how plants react to different soil moisture conditions and irrigation treatments in near real-time. They will also gain valuable insight into plant physiology, soil properties, influence of weather/climate on evapo-transpiration, and how sensor networks can help conserve water.

Brett Smith, Environmental Science teacher, sees this as an invaluable opportunity to engage students in real -world science and capture their imagination by using emerging technology.
Head of Science, Peter Crofts, wants to see the Sensor Web grow to cover the entire school.

He stated "The small plot is only a pilot - I am keen to use this technology to reduce the school's ecological footprint…. we intend to monitor soil moisture conditions across all our sports fields and see if we can reduce our water use".

Andrew says "We want to make science appealing to students, especially those who are now very seriously considering their career options. This is what the Scientists in Schools program is all about ... CSIRO also benefits from this deployment as it serves as another test bed for trialling our ideas."

Students from The Hutchins School examine the Sensor technology

Andrew with students on the pilot Sensor Web plot