About SENSE IT: Project Overview

SENSE IT differs from other environmental monitoring programs for students because SENSE IT provides students with the opportunity to build and understand their own sensors from scratch, demystifying the “black box” effect associated with commercially available probes and test kits.

In the SENSE IT activities, complex concepts and relationships are broken down into their most elemental aspects. Sensors are assembled from fundamental materials and easily understandable elemental building blocks. Constructing, calibrating, programming and deploying sensors, and wireless sensor networks engenders a deeper understanding of the environmental quantities being measured, as well as using STEM concepts in an integrated way. Additionally it affords students a hands-on opportunity to interact with “the tools of the trade” of real research scientists and engineers, exposing students to skill sets required for the 21st century STEM workforce.

SENSE IT offers four project-based educational modules:

  1. Sensor development 
  2. Sensor deployment and data gathering 
  3. Water quality investigation
  4. Sharing data across observatories

Each module requires three to five typical 45-minute class periods and includes comprehensive lesson plans to accommodate insertion into any standard STEM curricula (mathematics, chemistry, general science, physics, environmental science and computer science), while meeting state and national education standards.

Principled evaluation work, conducted by an independent evaluator, confirmed the efficacy of SENSE IT for stimulating interest in, and enhancing practical understanding of, core STEM concepts. Results indicate that the participating teachers were positive about the benefits of the SENSE IT for their students both in terms of student engagement and learning.

Through SENSE IT we hope to increase the numbers of teachers and students exposed to hands-on learning experiences that revolve around the world of sensors, as well as help them prepare students to handle the complex, multidisciplinary challenges awaiting them in the 21st century, technology-focused workplace.