In Sandy, opportunities for science education
October 30th, 2012
11:18 AM ET

In Sandy, opportunities for science education

By Zaina Adamu, CNN

When Ted Turbiasz, 36, first heard about Hurricane Sandy, he gathered his two children in their backyard and put them to work. Collectively, they built a do-it-yourself weather station equipped with a rain gauge and wind indicator, and connected their home television to feed live video of the storm. They topped it off with a specially-made banner held on with green duct tape and labeling the unit as “Aidan’s Sandy Weather Station.”

The purpose of it all was to “teach them that weather is something that can be monitored," Turbiasz told CNN's iReport.

With more advanced technology and resources, forecasters are doing the same. They predicted the magnitude of Sandy with the help of satellite images from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder tracked the storm and captured a high-resolution photo that meteorologists used to determine the storm's size.

Other sophisticated technology helps predict life-threatening hurricanes, as well. Take for instance the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s supercomputer, Yellowstone, which is able to render short-term weather forecasts in less than 10 minutes and can compute 1.5 quadrillion (a million billion) mathematical operations a second, equivalent to 7 billion people performing more than 200,000 calculations every second.

But it was not always so easy for people to prepare for dangerous weather conditions. The 1938 Long Island hurricane unexpectedly crept up alongside the Eastern Seaboard, destroying everything in its path. Lack of technology gave people little to no warning. The most reliable source of communication was radio, but because of the storm’s impact, many radio signals went dead.

Today, we rely heavily on weather trackers and live, up-to-the-minute digital hurricane maps to forewarn us about potential weather threats. Advanced satellite systems and other technology provide several ways to communicate globally, specifically via the Internet and telephone devices.

As we move forward, parents like Turbiasz are making sure these critical sources of information do not go away, which is why he is getting his children to take an interest in math and science early.

“Kids tend to hear the term 'storm' and naturally start to worry and assume the worst," he told CNN iReport. But after their project they are “now less focused on the storm and more excited about the weather station.”

CNN.com commenter BettyWooster suggests that parents should “take advantage of this event as a ‘teachable moment’ to inspire your kids to aim at careers in math and science." She continues:

Specifically, look for elements in the coverage that demonstrate the essential nature of math and science in the safety and rebuild aspects of this kind of event. Talk about it with your kids, listen to their questions, and revisit this inspiration as time goes on to help them stick to their homework and motivation to participate in class.  Maybe we can squeeze a new generation of math & science minded enthusiasts who can help us build whatever technologies are upcoming to help people in future storms.

Vhmmmm responded, "Right on, Betty! Life is science :)"

Check out this Storify report of how parents are telling their children about the storm.

Has your area been affected by Sandy? Share your story with CNN iReport.

CNN's Nicole Saidi contributed to this report.

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soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. James Mulhern

    This is what education is all about.–linking timely, relevant news issues to the subjects we teach in school. Thank you for the great suggestions.

    James Mulhern, http://www.synthesizingeducation.net

    October 30, 2012 at 11:26 pm |

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