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ECU Notes: New weather station brings detailed data to ECU

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The WeatherSTEM station provides campus-specific weather readings. (Contributed photo)


By ECU News Services

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Weather in eastern North Carolina is notoriously unpredictable — bright blue skies one minute and rain the next. Now, East Carolina University has a new tool to help measure and forecast weather, so choosing between rain boots or flip flops will no longer be a guessing game.

WeatherSTEM is a weather platform that provides real-time weather readings, collects data, takes photos and videos, and automatically sends weather updates on its Facebook and Twitter accounts. The information is available 24 hours a day and is used by different groups across the university for safety and research purposes.

Lauren Mink, ECU’s emergency planner, said WeatherSTEM was appealing for many reasons including its ability to take measurements on campus versus at the Pitt-Greenville Airport across town and the forecasts provided by Weather Underground, a popular weather service.

“The information can be used to make executive decisions during hazardous weather events, like this past spring commencement,” said Mink. In May, when severe weather caused the cancellation of spring commencement, WeatherSTEM’s lightning strike and weather measurements were instrumental in making the decision to cancel the event.

Mink added that WeatherSTEM will be another tool included in the university’s designation as StormReady by the National Weather Service and will provide information for damage assessments after major weather events.

ECU’s weather station is located on the Willis Building on Reade Street, and the environmental camera is mounted on Tyler Residence Hall overlooking Gateway Residence Hall and the north side of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. WeatherSTEM provides weather readings and collects a treasure trove of data that is automatically uploaded to a webpage. The camera on Tyler Hall takes a photo every minute, which are compiled into a time-lapse video each day to be shared on the webpage and social media accounts.

WeatherSTEM has an app for smartphones that allows anyone to create a free account to set up customized notifications for extreme heat or cold, lightning, high winds and watches and warnings.

ECU Athletics uses the weather platform to monitor conditions, particularly heat and lightning, to determine if it is safe to conduct outdoor practices and games.

“It is critical that staff have accurate and real-time data on lightning. WeatherSTEM alerts to the location of lightning strikes in proximity to ECU playing fields and notifies staff to when lightning has passed and it’s safe to return,” said Mike Hanley, associate athletic director.

Hanley added that accurate forecasting of heat indexes allows practice schedules to be changed to avoid the most dangerous times of day. The medical staff can take appropriate precautions to help prevent heat-related complications.

The educational component and data make WeatherSTEM a valuable research tool. Tom Rickenbach, associate professor of atmospheric science at ECU has used the data graphics from the weather station and time-lapse videos in his classes and research. Rickenbach and his colleague, Rosana Ferreira, received a $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study weather patterns in the southeastern United States.

“The sky cloud videos will be particularly useful in my research to document the occurrence of afternoon thunderstorm clouds in our region, especially this time of year,” said Rickenbach. “These are fantastic instructional aids and are a great way to get students excited about the weather.”

ECU’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety provided the solar-powered unit, which has been providing data for two months.

“We may consider additional stations in other campus locations, such as the Health Sciences Campus or the Coastal Studies Institute,” said Mink.

Get WeatherSTEM alerts and weather information:

Web: pitt-nc.weatherstem.com/ecu

Twitter: @ECUWxSTEM

Facebook: East Carolina University WeatherSTEM

Thirty teachers complete graduate degrees

Thirty high school math teachers in eastern North Carolina recently earned their master’s degrees in education thanks to a unique blend of off campus, face-to-face and online classes led by ECU faculty.

It was the largest graduating class in the history of the program, which usually only has a few students complete the master’s program for high school mathematics each year, said Rose Sinicrope, associate professor of mathematics education and a 2017 Board of Governors Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award recipient.

“Graduate level mathematics courses, which compose almost half the program, are taught face to face, and it is very difficult for teachers to get to campus on time to attend classes. In the past, this was the major deterrent for many teachers,” said Sinicrope. “The second deterrent was North Carolina’s elimination of the teacher pay scale increase for graduate degrees in 2013.”

To combat those challenges, ECU faculty in the College of Education and Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences customized an off-campus course of study to fit the teachers’ schedules as part of a revision to the undergraduate mathematics education degree program in 2013.

The 30 teachers are from Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Edgecombe, Greene, Nash, Onslow, Pitt and Wayne counties. Twenty-nine teach in public schools while one teaches in private school. Teachers taught their full class loads during the two years of the program.

Anita Koen, math teacher at South Central High School, who was part of the newest MAED graduating class, was instrumental to the program’s success since most classes were held in Koen’s high school classroom, Sinicrope said.

Koen delivered the graduate student address at the departmental graduation, thanking the ECU professors for support and creating a cohort just for them. “They came to us at South Central to hold class at times that were not convenient to them but were convenient to us,” Koen said.

Sinicrope called the group the “Miracle 30.”

“Few believed that high school mathematics teachers would be willing to invest in their careers without financial support and gain,” Sinicrope said. “Few believed that ECU faculty would be willing to meet teachers at their schools and on their schedules. It was a miracle that not just a few but 30 high school mathematics teachers, who sacrifice personal gain by remaining in the classroom, were willing to sacrifice more because they believe in their students, in themselves, and in ECU.”