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UAlbany Hosts Weather Camp for Area's Future Meteorologists

University Leverages Expertise in Atmospheric Sciences to Introduce Urban Youth to the World of Weather

ALBANY, N.Y. (August 18, 2015) -- The clouds parted just in time for an outdoor experiment to begin at the University at Albany’s recent Weather & Climate Camp.

The weeklong camp was hosted by UAlbany’s Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (DAES) for students in grades 9-11 from Schenectady, Albany, Troy, Watervliet and Rensselaer.

The camp was created by DAES Assistant Professor Justin Minder using a five year grant he received from the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program. The award is given to faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

The experiment commenced as two area students took seats on opposite ends of the seesaw-like Coriolis effect machine. The seesaw was then spun around in a circle. Their mission? To throw a tennis ball into a bucket that sat in the middle of the seesaw. Sounds easy, right? Not really. The green balls bounced off to the side, until the students learned to compensate.

Afterwards, Minder explained: “The Earth spins like you did on the ride. We might expect the winds to move from high pressure to low pressure, but instead they bend to the right and circulate around low pressure centers in the Northern Hemisphere due to the Earth’s rotation.”

“The ball appears to be curving in a horizontal plane, when in fact we can expect it to go in a straight line due to the laws of physics,” said Minder.

Anya Burke of Troy, who is entering the 10th grade, enjoyed the experiment. “I have always been interested in weather and how things change,” said Burke, who was born in Grenada and wants to learn more about extreme weather events, including hurricanes and earthquakes. She noted that Hurricane Ivan caused extensive damage in Grenada, as did an earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010.

Highlights included a trip to the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center’s Whiteface Mountain weather observatory in the Adirondacks, and the National Weather Service’s Albany forecast office.

Samantha Sorbo, an 11th grader from Schenectady, said her teacher recommended her for the camp. “This is the school I want to go to,” she said, emphasizing her interest in meteorology and weather forecasting.

Colleen Rooney of Albany High School, and Dezha Harrison of Albany Leadership, are both juniors. Said Harrison, who plans to go into the field of medicine: “I thought it [the experiment] was interesting. That’s how the world works. It’s a pretty cool way to demonstrate it.” Rooney said, “Science and math are two of my favorite subjects. When I was younger I wanted to be a veterinarian. Now I want to go into medicine or nanotechnology. I just need to figure out what to go after.”

Brendan Gardner, an 11th grader at Tamarac High School, also took a spin on the ride. “I like weather, storms, and all that stuff,” he said.

The inaugural camp was hosted as UAlbany begins to implement a statewide weather network. Working in partnership with the N.Y. State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and the National Weather Service, UAlbany's weather and climate science researchers – the largest concentration in New York State and one of the largest in the nation – are leading the design, development and implementation of the NYS Mesonet.

The network will ultimately comprise 125 interconnected surface weather stations to detect weather patterns and phenomena, with as many as 17 super sites equipped with profiler technology to gather above-ground meteorological data, supporting more accurate forecasting.

The complete system will be implemented in phases through the end of 2016. To learn more and gain access to real-time, 3D data, visit NYS Mesonet.

To see some of the area’s coverage of UAlbany’s Weather Camp, check out:
• WNYT- TV 13
Free weather camp brings STEM to future meteorologists

• Time Warner Cable, Channel 9
Weather camp whirls into Albany

• Times Union
Weather camp for teens

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.