Elementary Students Help Scientists Calibrate Satellite-linked Ice Buoys

6 February 2020

The Fresh Eyes on Ice Project deployed high-tech snow and ice buoys on lakes and rivers across the state. These sensor systems designed by Beaded Stream LLC transmit data on snow depth and ice thickness from remote locations two times a day to inform travelers, forecasters, and scientists about changing winter conditions. Like many novel new techniques however, the precision and accuracy of these buoys remain uncertain.

To address this uncertainty and also provide a science learning opportunity, we developed a Ice Buoy Calibration Lesson Plan for our community-based monitoring classroom teams. 4th graders from Ms Jenn Wallace's Anne Wien Elementary class helped Fresh Eyes scientists test out this approach on Noyes Slough.

Students discovered that the buoys was recording ice thickness 5 cm thinner than what was measured using a hand auger and tape (the more precise and accurate method). This correction provides scientists with the information to provide more accurate data to other scientists and the public. 4th graders got outdoors and practiced their math skills on an applied physics problem at the same time.