Faculty Mentor Name: Gerrad Jones
Faculty Mentor Department: Biological &Ecological Engineering
Student research work will be: Entirely remote/virtual
Human and ecosystem health is directly linked to water quality. While most cultures have an intimate relationship with water, people worldwide are reliant on governments to monitor water quality. Within the last decade, however, inexpensive open-source tools have been developed for water basic water quality monitoring. Although exciting, these tools require computer programming, which is a skill many people lack. Thus, even the simplest technologies needed to monitor water quality are unavailable to most civilians. Furthermore, there are no absolute standards to evaluate whether water quality is "good" or "bad". Local conditions affect water quality. Thus, civilians must have local information to put water quality data into context. Without local information, people‚Äôs ability to detect problems and then make decisions that help improve their health is limited. Therefore, the goals of this project are twofold. First, develop a simple curriculum targeted to local high school students that focuses on programming open-source water quality sensors. After development and student feedback, this curriculum will be posted to YouTube to reach a broad audience. Second, computer scripts will be developed to curate existing water quality data from nationwide US Geologic Survey stream monitoring stations. These scripts will generate expected ranges for typical water quality conditions at a local (e.g., county) level. Once these two objectives are achieved, civilians can collect their own water quality data and compare it values from other local streams. This will help give people the information needed to evaluate the quality of water in their local communities.
The Job - Project Description
This project consists of 3 complementary objectives focusing on "lab" work, field work, and computer programming. The student can focus on any of these, but it would be great if the student could at least start on all three.
Lab work consists of building and programming a simple sensor array with the help of OSU - OPEnS Lab (https://open-sensing.org/). The student would get exposure to programming microcontrollers (e.g., Arduino) to collect data from the environment. This will require a lot of trouble shooting to figure out the best method for not only programming the sensor but also figuring out the best way to deploy the sensor into the environment. This will consider a lot of "tinkering" to find a suitable configuration for the system.
Fieldwork will consist of deploying sensors in local creeks to collect data. The student will need to figure out which time scales are most appropriate for collecting data (e.g., hourly, daily, weekly, etc.). Collecting data will need to be balanced with making sure the sensor security. While a 1 month deployment may be optimal for data collection, this time frame may not be suitable for security. Also, the student will have to figure out how to ensure that the sensor is secure and doesn't wash away during storm events.
Finally, programming work will consist of finding effective ways to analyze and display the data once it is collected from the sensor. Furthermore, the student will need to develop an web interface for collecting and extracting relevant water quality data from existing long-term data from US Geological Survey gages across the country. This is critical for ensuring that the system is usable by as many people as possible.
A student can focus on any or all of these expected outcomes, but the overall goal of each is to make it readily accessible for end users. Any new skills and techniques developed by the student will be described in detail, not only in text but also in social media, videos, and other digital formats.
Description of work environment
The student will have a lot of flexibility on where to work. All work can be done remotely without university laboratory equipment. As long as the student has an internet connection and can attend weekly zoom meetings, there are no restrictions on where the work needs to be completed. Programming work can be done in a room near you. Field work can be done are your local stream, or even your sink.
Description of Student Responsibilities
Student responsibilities: First and foremost, the student must take control of this project and work independently. The student will be required to solve problems and must be willing to take an initial stab at a problem without being asked or told to try something. I have my own ideas about how to move forward, but the best ideas come from collaboration. It is so important to bounce ideas around in order to remove the ideas that don't work and find the ideas that do. Therefore, I expect the students to be constantly testing out new ideas. Weekly research meetings will focus on problem solving, so the students must come prepared to show what they have accomplished and what they are stuck on.
Most day-to-day activities include "tinkering". Tinkering involves "horsing around" with computer code to identify errors, "fiddling" with different water proof containers, and "playing" with figures to identify the most appropriate way to display data. Play is the highest form of research, so I expect students to find enjoyment out of their work. A student who gets daily enjoyment out of work is goin to get far on this project.
Required Skills - students must be creative, excited, and willing to fail. For me, ~80% of research is problem solving. Most ideas don‚Äôt work as originally planned, but with creative out-of-the-box thinking, we can overcome any problem we encounter. It is important for students to take control and be invested/excited about their project. Otherwise, students will not be able to find creative solutions to move forward.
Recommended skills- students should have had at least some exposure to a programming language (e.g., Python, R, MatLab).
Learned Skills - at the end of this research experience, students will be familiar with general water quality analyses and concepts. In addition, students will get considerable exposure to sensor and computer programming as well as data analysis.
At the end of this experience, students will have a variety of programming experience. Beyond, the specific training they receive, my hope is that the students will have a sense of ownership of the project. This is not a cookie-cutter project, and the success of this project will be determined by the students leadership skills. Therefore, a student could develop strong project management skills. Finally, the overall goal is to translate research into practical skills for the non-scientific community. Therefore, a student could develop strong communication skills in a wide variety of formats, including written, oral, social media, teaching, and many others.
Expected start and end date: January 4, 2021
Anticipated hours per week: 5 hours/wk
Anticipated hourly wage: $12/hour