The Robinson Nature Center is an 18-acre, publicly-owned nature center that hosts 420 groups every year in Maryland in their 23,000 ft2 platinum LEED-certified facility. It was founded in 2009 following the wishes of James and Anne Robinson--who had previously lived on the land. They now have a new activity, which features the PocketLab Air, called Air Quality Outreach.
First, what is particulate matter (PM)? Particulate matter is a mixture of solids and/or liquids suspended within the air. These solids and liquids are too small for the eye to see, however, if they're in a high enough concentration it will often look like a haze in the air. The particles that make it up can be anything from pollen and dust to even molecules of water. The number at the end (ex. the 10 in PM10) is the upper limit of the particles’ diameter. A size comparison produced by the US EPA can be seen below.
It is almost instinctive when you first get the PocketLab Air to breathe directly on it just to see what happens. As seen below, of the PocketLab Air's seven sensors, five of them detect changes from a direct human breath. These parameters are carbon dioxide, particulate matter, temperature, humidity, and pressure. The most interesting of these is the sharp rise in carbon dioxide which, as the most important greenhouse gas, brings about strong connections to the topic of climate change.
As I was producing an experiment that modelled the PocketLab Air as a device to give early warnings of forest fires, there were already many burning across western Canada where I live. One such fire was near the city of High Level (470 miles from Edmonton), which was on the scale of 230,000 hectares at the time. While much of northwestern Alberta was evacuated, the smoke affected almost all of Alberta, spreading all the way down to Calgary, and creating a haze with a very post-apocalyptic feeling to it.
On this page, you'll find step-by-step instructions for using PocketLab Air, in-depth answers to many common PocketLab Air questions, and a 15-minute webinar-style Getting Started video covering everything from connecting PocketLab Air to calibrating the CO2 sensor. If you have additional questions, feedback, or other comments, send us an email at [email protected]
PocketLab Air Getting Started Video
Forest fires are a common natural disaster within western North America and pose a serious risk to many communities both nearby due to direct danger of the fire, as well as far away in the form of air pollution. Currently, in many places, some form of government employee will be in charge of looking out for forest fires and once identified, satellites and computer programs can be used to track its progression and predict where the fire will spread and where the smoke cloud will go. This allows us to evacuate individuals who may be in danger and minimize loss of life.