NASA in the Schoolyard
Thanks to an ongoing collaboration with Boise State University’s NASA-funded snow science research, we’ve successfully incorporated hands-on science experiences that give SnowSchool students a role in helping scientists do the important work of measuring, monitoring and studying the snowpack.
WWA’s National SnowSchool Program has long been a bridge to connect students and educators to the fascinating world of snow science. And thanks to an ongoing collaboration with Boise State University’s NASA-funded snow science research, we have successfully incorporated hands-on science experiences that give SnowSchool students a role in helping scientists do the important work of measuring, monitoring and studying the snowpack.
This year’s collaboration featured the Basin School District in rural Idaho City, Idaho. Throughout the winter, the snow science research team from nearby Boise State University used the school’s athletic field to conduct weekly airborne snow surveys.
As part of an ongoing effort to develop remote sensing technology, the team utilized a large drone mounted with specialized radar to scan the snowpack in an attempt to measure its density (water content). To assess the accuracy of their new technology they compared the drone gathered data to data they collected by hand.
In March, Basin Elementary 3rd and 5th Grade students met up with these scientists to learn more about their work. As a recently designated STEM school the students came well prepared to ask good questions about the design of the drone itself. And when it came time to help collect snowpack measurements by hand, the students prior SnowSchool experience meant they had a significant head start.
“Such a great experience for me and for the whole class” said Megan Hunicke, Basin Elementary 5th Grade Teacher. “Not only was it interesting to hear about all the instruments and processes involved in your research, but it was equally awesome for the kids to learn how scientists from different organizations collaborate.”
The field of snow science is increasingly focused on making more accurate snow water content predictions in an increasingly unpredictable world. Once the technology like the drone’s radar is perfected, NASA hopes to launch a satellite equipped with instruments that will ultimately help measure, perhaps even in real time, the water content of snow in mountain watersheds (and globally).
In dry western states and communities like Idaho City that rely on mountain snow for up to 80% of their annual water supply, this scientific advancement would be a welcome breakthrough. And our SnowSchool students get to be a part of that.
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