Building Pyranometers at Philadelphia's Central High School

February 11, 2004

Dr. David Brooks, with Drexel engineering students Esther Lim and Stephen Waterbury, went to the AP Environmental Science Class at Philadelphia’s Central High School to help students build pyranometers (instruments for measuring full-sky solar radiation, as described elsewhere on this Web page). Central HS is a restricted admission public high school that has a long history of sending students to Drexel.

The project involves some basic electronic construction techniques, including using a soldering iron. Neither the two Drexel engineering undergraduates nor the Central HS students had ever done this. John McMillian, the AP Environmental Science teacher at Central HS, provided soldering irons and other tools. After practicing building some instruments at Drexel, we took enough parts for 8 pyranometers to Central HS. What was initially planned as a one-period introduction to soldering techniques and a start on the construction of these instruments turned into two hours, as students asked to be excused from their next class so they could continue working. A few groups finished and tested their instruments during this time.

The next steps in the project include completing and calibrating the instruments, and discussing how to collect and analyze insolation data. At least one of the pyranometers will be mounted on Central HS's roof and connected to a datalogger. According to Mr. McMillian, access to the insolation data is critical to the project's success, as this provides a way for his students to improve their analysis skills.

Dr. Brooks and students at Central High School
Drexel engineering students Esther Lim and Stephen Waterbury working with Central High School students