Out of Thin Air – Maker Workshop

Instructor: Nicholas Frearson, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory


    Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have been climbing steadily over the last few decades but we are often still unsure of exactly how much of it is in our atmosphere and how these emissions impact us on a day-to-day basis. Being able to quantify the exact amount of carbon dioxide in different environments, both indoors and outdoors, can be very challenging but it is especially important.

    CO2 is everywhere, from our classrooms to our offices to the streets we walk. We need a clearer picture of what is happening, starting with a better understanding of just how much is being emitted.

    Climate scientists at the Earth Institute’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) have recently developed a handy monitor and state-of-the-art tool that can be used indoors and outdoors to measure CO2 emissions. Through the “Out of Thin Air” workshop, participants built a low-cost carbon dioxide sensor and Arduino-based microcontroller to monitor CO2 emissions. Participants developed an understanding of why it’s so important to be able to take measurements and quantify something that is potentially harmful in the air before we can implement solutions and policies to alleviate the problem.

    Participants also learned how professional scientists use specific tools, which they themselves have to build, in order to measure and gather important scientific data. Participants interpreted, analyzed, and applied their knowledge to the making of a CO2 sensor through both hardware (building the actual sensor) and software (using the Arduino Integrated Development Environment as well as R programming language) components.  

    Learning Outcomes:

    • Understand the importance of quantifying measurements
    • Build a CO2 sensor for indoor and outdoor use
    • Collect, interpret, and analyze collected data through hardware and software tools

    Schedule: (VIRTUAL) Five sessions in November 2020, all 3:00pm - 6:00pm ET:

    1. Monday, November 9
    2. Wednesday, November 11
    3. Friday, November 13
    4. Tuesday, November 17
    5. Thursday, November 19