Salt Lake City struggles to control particle pollution, which, caused mainly by car and truck emissions, creates a fog-like mass that coats the entire city. While chemical engineers have been monitoring environmental conditions in the region for quite some time, a team at the University of Utah has recently created a network of air quality sensors to put into the hands of citizen scientists. The engineers hope that by doing so, they can better monitor pollution while nurturing science literacy at the grassroots level.

Middle and high school students have been particularly crucial in this effort. Engineers at the University of Utah have created a program wherein college students mentor younger students and teach them how to build and monitor their own sensors. This not only helps teens learn about the technology critical to collecting important scientific data, but also gives them active experience contributing to the collection of data that can help professional scientists learn more about the environment of Salt Lake City. The team also hopes that this effort will funnels more students into STEM careers.

What kind of large-scale effects can a project like this have on a community? Why involve citizen scientists in scholarly research efforts? Join the discussion on Vialogues.

Excerpts from the discussion:

@01:34 Betsy Harrington: Engaging citizen scientists both raises awareness about problems that affect the whole community and outlines concrete steps citizens can take to work toward a solution.

@02:31 Rebecca Sullivan: Not only do these students get a taste of the relevance of science for real-world problems, they also see in the undergraduate mentors a possible path for further study. This type of interpersonal connection can jumpstart young students' career interests.