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SACHS runs air quality experiment

Will open gate reduce idling?
AIR SAMPLERS — SACHS students Cadence Richards (in red) and Jacob Goudreau (in hat) examine data from an air quality monitoring device (the box in front of Goudreau) installed at St. Albert Catholic High. The device was part of a two-week experiment on air pollution at the school. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert Catholic High science students are doing an experiment this month to see if an open gate can reduce air pollution in their parking lot.

SACHS students mounted a Temboo air quality monitoring device to the fence just outside their school’s student entrance in around April 24 as part of a two-week experiment.

SACHS biology teacher Neil Korotash said he got the idea for this experiment from a seminar run by Inside Education, who also loaned him the Temboo device. The seminar encouraged teachers to think up air quality experiments they could run with their students.

“Everyone’s done the idling test,” Korotash said, referring to studies where students compare air pollution readings by schools with and without idling vehicles or idling controls, and he wanted to do something different with his Bio 20 students.

For many years, the only way to get into the SACHS parking lot has been via Mont Clare Place — a significant bottleneck, as the school shares that road with Vincent J. Maloney Junior High and several seniors’ homes, Korotash said.

The result is a huge loop of cars idling in the SACHS parking lot at dismissal time, said Grade 11 student Jacob Goudreau. Some drivers have to wait 35 minutes to get back onto the road.

“After 35 minutes, the air’s pretty stinky,” Goudreau said.

The SACHS parking lot has a second entrance leading to Malmo Ave. which has been closed for many years with a gate, Korotash said. He and his students hypothesize that opening this gate will improve traffic flow and reduce air pollution in the area.

Korotash said students used the Temboo device to track temperature, humidity, particulate matter, CO2, and the air quality index for one week in the parking lot starting April 24 with the gate closed. They continued monitoring this week after opening the gate on May 1.

In an email, city transportation manager Dean Schick said the city originally closed the gate onto Malmo Ave. due to safety and congestion concerns from area residents, but have allowed it to be temporarily opened to support the school’s experiment. City crews will be collecting traffic data in the region during the experiment to see how opening the gate affects traffic flows.

Korotash said the Temboo device will be returned to Inside Education in a few weeks so another school can use it. SACHS students will spend the next few weeks analyzing data from the device to see if opening the gate had any effect on air pollution. So far, students have been able to attribute a sharp spike in pollutants detected on April 24 to a large grass fire in north Edmonton that same day.

Korotash said this experiment was a chance for students to see science in action and learn about air pollution and the carbon cycle. SACHS was definitely interested in keeping the Malmo Ave. gate open if doing so improved air quality.

Korotash said the experiment’s results will likely be posted to the Mission: St. Albert Facebook page later this month.

Questions on the experiment should go to SACHS at 780-459-7781.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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