News, On Campus

WeatherSTEM Tracks Live Weather On Campus

Over the summer, Boston College worked to implement an interactive weather system, known as WeatherSTEM, to more accurately predict weather patterns on the University’s campus. The system that sits atop Conte Forum broadcasts the data it collects to the public via WeatherSTEM’s website.

WeatherSTEM’s programming allows students and faculty to check typical weather features including humidity, temperature, and rainfall on campus, in addition to tracking UV radiation, approaching lightning storms, and wind speed. The apparatus also includes two Cloud Cameras, pointed at Gasson Hall and toward the city that allows users to see a time-lapse video of storms over the past 24 hours.

“They programmed a lot of features in here that are very helpful to our audience,” Director of Emergency Management and Preparedness John Tommaney said. “You can receive a text in the morning to tell you whether you should grab a jacket or an umbrella.”

By setting up a personal account, users can receive customized alerts via text message, email, or phone with various weather updates. In addition, WeatherSTEM sets up automated Facebook and Twitter pages to broadcast weather alerts to followers.

BC is the third ACC school to implement WeatherSTEM, after Florida State University and Miami University. WeatherSTEM is currently used to help the athletics department check climate conditions for football practices or games at Alumni Stadium. BC also recently added a WeatherSTEM unit under the AstroTurf to help determine whether it is a safe temperature for students to practice or play games. In addition, the system will help the grounds crew determine when to water the fields and how to maintain the sports facilities in different weather conditions.

The University will also implement the data that the WeatherSTEM system collects within the classroom as an educational program through the Earth and Environmental studies department. The system will provide students studying weather and the environment with immediate and accurate data to help them with their labs and projects, professor John Ebel said.

“We do have a course that is taught each fall by an instructor that is also a part of the Institute for Scientific Research named John Retterer,” Ebel said. “Dr. Retterer is teaching weather and climate right now and there are labs associated with that course. I am sure that looking at the data that is coming from the WeatherSTEM instrument will be incorporated in some way in that course.”

Weather apps, including Google Weather and WeatherBug, cannot accurately predict BC’s immediate weather conditions as their satellites are set up in sevesral locations separate from the University, Tommaney said. WeatherSTEM will provide BC students with the most accurate and up-to-date predictions because the probes are set up directly on the Chestnut Hill campus.

Prior to the implementation of WeatherSTEM, the University used an apparatus that sat atop O’Neill Library and was created by a company known as Davis Instruments. According to Ebel, however, the interface between Davis Instruments and BC began to deteriorate and the university began to look for a new program. Not only does WeatherSTEM have the capacity to track more data than the previous system, but it also has records of the University’s weather data as far back as 1954.

WeatherSTEM was created by Ucompass CEO Edward Mansouri, who received his Master’s in meteorology from Florida State University. Mansouri has already implemented WeatherSTEM in most K-12 schools in Florida as an educational program and is now beginning to enter the realm of higher education, promoting it as a safety promotion and research-oriented device. According to Mansouri, he donated WeatherSTEM to BC, free of cost, in order to get the product’s name publicized.

The Department of Emergency Management, in coordination with BC Athletics, the Environmental Studies Program, and Information Technology Services worked with Mansouri to install the program at BC in July. In the future, WeatherSTEM is looking for ways to measure snowfall on campus using snowfall rates and lasers. The company is also trying to configure a way to measure the decibel of sound within Alumni Stadium during football games.

“And at the end of the day, one of our primary objectives is to introduce it as a teaching and learning tool,” Mansouri said.

September 13, 2015