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Ozone Goes to Camp
08.05.05
 

For many of us, summer camp brings to mind thoughts of canoeing, archery, swimming and arts and crafts, but for one NASA Langley Research Center employee, summer camp now has a much more scientific spin. Last month, Margaret Pippin of the Science Directorate experienced life as a camper while leading a directed study on ozone at the National Youth Science Camp (NYSC) in Bartow, W.Va.

NASA Langley research scientist Margaret Pippin leads a group studying ozone at the National Youth Science Camp.

In mid-July, Pippin joined 108 graduating high school seniors taking part in the NYSC from across the country and around the world. This month-long educational program, blends traditional summer camp activities with a cutting-edge science research experience.

Image right: Margaret Pippin, an atmospheric scientist at NASA Langley Research Center sits with students at the National Youth Science Camp, teaching them about ozone and air quality. Click to enlarge. Image credit: NYSC.

"Even though I was there to lead a directed study, I stayed in the camp with the student delegates, ate in the dining hall, and participated in the same activities the students were doing," said Pippin. "It was a rustic experience, with all of the camp-like amenities that you remember from your childhood -- like bunk beds and long walks to the shower facilities. But it was worth it -- I had a great time."

Pippin led a directed study focused on atmospheric chemistry of ozone as part of the academic component of the NYSC. Students participated in one directed study, a hands-on, interactive small group experience, each week. Throughout the month, the students also participate in a lecture series, other hands-on learning opportunities, outdoor adventures, overnight trips as well as traditional summer camp activities.

Ozone is a gas that forms in the atmosphere when 3 atoms of oxygen combine. At ground level ozone is created by a chemical reaction between sunlight, oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds.

Image left:Ozone is a gas that forms in the atmosphere when 3 atoms of oxygen combine. At ground level ozone is created by a chemical reaction between sunlight, oxides of nitrogen, and volatile organic compounds. Ozone has the same chemical structure whether "good" or "bad," depending on its location in the atmosphere. Image and Caption Credit: U.S. EPA

Pippin's directed study, called "How Dirty is the Air You Breathe?", focused on her research at NASA Langley, as well as her work with the GLOBE Program, a worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based education and science program. Pippin discussed tropospheric ozone, a major component of photochemical smog, and led the delegates in making measurements of ozone and related parameters using GLOBE protocols. Pippin and her class of 10 students also identified ozone-induced foliar injury in some native plants in the area.

Carbon monoxide is a good tracer of low level ozone pollution since it is produced by incomplete combustion processes such as the burning of fossil fuels in urban and industrial areas, the use of biofuels in developing countries, and by biomass burning in the tropics.

Image right: Carbon monoxide is a good tracer of low level ozone pollution since it is produced by incomplete combustion processes such as the burning of fossil fuels in urban and industrial areas, the use of biofuels in developing countries, and by biomass burning in the tropics. Vegetation Image Credit: NASA, Smokestack Image Credit: Energy Information Admin., U.S. Dept. of Energy

"I was very impressed with the diversity of experiences the camp offers the students," said Pippin. "The week I was there they went to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, W.Va., heard a lecture on ancient structures, gave a musical performance to the camp and went rock climbing in the Monongahela National Forest."

"We pride ourselves on our ability to expose the delegates to a broad blending of everything -- from linguistics to ethics to tissue engineering," said Erin Richardson, NYSC director of public information. The NYSC is focused on exploration and scientific inquiry. For 42 years, the camp's mission has been to honor excellence, expose the students to different disciplines and encourage thoughtful scientific leadership.

Student delegates at the National Youth Science Camp in West Virginia.

Image left:During the month-long camp, NYSC student delegates get to participate in many outdoor activities like hiking, taking advantage of the beautiful scenery that West Virginia has to offer. Click to enlarge. Image credit: NYSC.

Pippin, who grew up in West Virginia and attended Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., had never heard of the NYSC until she received an invitation from the camp's director, Andrew Blackwood, to lead a directed study.

"My undergraduate mentor, Ralph Oberly, nominated me for this experience," said Pippin. "It was very rewarding to expose students to the atmospheric chemistry field -- something I wish I had been able to experience at an earlier age."

Every summer, two students from each state are chosen by a selection coordinator based on the students' scholastic excellence, scientific curiosity, well-rounded interests and leadership in school and community. This year, 10 delegates representing Barbados, Germany, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela were also selected to attend the NYSC with help from the US Department of State.

For more information, visit:

+ The National Youth Science Camp http://www.nysc.org/

+ The GLOBE Program http://www.globe.gov

 
 
NASA Langley Research Center