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Georgetown University


Detailed Course Information


Fall 2018
Oct 24, 2021
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STIA 315 - CLab: Int'l Air Quality
Poor air quality has an enormous negative impact on health around the world. As many as 7 million people died in 2012 as a result of air pollution - one in eight deaths globally (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-pollution/en/). The problem is particularly bad in outdoor urban areas in rapidly industrializing countries, but indoor air quality is also extremely poor (http://www.who.int/sustainable-development/housing/health-risks/household-air-pollution/en/) in many rural areas in low-income countries where kerosene lighting and open-fire cooking are common (over a billion people still light their homes with kerosene lamps). 

Many cities and countries in the developed world have recognized the public health burden of poor air quality, and have imposed policies to improve it, such as vehicle emissions limits, restricting driving, and even gradually eliminating gasoline vehicles. Reducing air pollution and improving respiratory health requires policy leadership, but policy makers are often unaware of the scope of the problem or unwilling to act without public pressure.

How can researchers and the public encourage policy makers to take steps to improve air quality? Improving the quantity and quality of data on air pollution - and making it transparent to citizens - is an important part of the answer. Previously, doing this required buying and maintaining expensive, professional-grade air quality sensor systems, which made it difficult to deploy large networks of them. However, in recent years the rise of cheap electronics technology such as Arduino microcontrollers and low-cost sensors means that it’s now possible to build moderate-grade air quality sensor systems for much lower cost. 

In this class, students will study the current status of global air quality measurements, with a particular focus on outdoor urban environments in developing countries. Working in teams at the Georgetown Maker Hub (https://www.library.georgetown.edu/makerhub), students will design and build a complete, low-cost air quality measurement device based on Arduino microcontrollers. They will then deploy it in an urban environment (either in the DC area, or other locations), and collect and analyze the resulting data. We will work closely with the OpenAQ platform of air quality data to place these measurements in a global context. 

In parallel with the laboratory work, students will study how poor air quality impacts human health, what types of sources are responsible for air pollution, and what policies have been enacted or are being considered to reduce air pollution in various countries. Students will present their results from measurements and policy analysis to relevant policy makers at the end of the semester.

Finally, during the semester, the class will develop a proposal and business case for installing a professional-grade air quality sensor on the Georgetown campus. This would provide real-time air quality measurements online via OpenAQ, and would serve as a resource for future air quality research.. 

3.000 Credit hours
3.000 Lecture hours

Levels: Undergraduate
Schedule Types: Laboratory, Seminar

Science, Tech, & Int'l Affairs Department

Course Attributes:
Mean Grade is Calculated

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