As many of you know, Discovery High School is well-known within the community for its outstanding involvement and student projects. One of the amazing student projects currently underway here at Discovery is the creation of a small weather station that sends weather data over radio waves that can be accessed by different people around Catawba County. The weather station is the brainchild of Tanner Abernathy, a junior at Discovery.
The weather station is located immediately outside of Dixon’s room. It collects data using a thermometer, barometer, an anemometer, and a rain gauge. This information is processed in a console contained within the weather station which displays data and records it. A cable from the weather station is connected to a computer, which decodes the data and puts it online so it can be accessed through Weather Underground.
“In the past year I have gained interest in radio communications, and analog devices. I discovered a system called APRS that allows you to send data over radio waves, and that you could send weather data over it quite easily, but since then we have switched to a mesh system instead of APRS,” said Abernathy when asked about his interest in radio communications.
The APRS system was initially used to collect, process. and transmit data from the weather station, but Abernathy has since started using Broadband-Hamnet. The new system is more accessible and efficient. It allows for data to be processed and transmitted over amateur radio frequencies by industrial wifi routers that have been loaded with new firmware.
The advantage of having a mesh network, like Broadband-Hamnet, is that, because of the use of wifi routers as nodes within the network, weather stations that have software issues are connected to other stations and can be self-repairing. This means that one failing radio station cannot interrupt the stream of data.
After replying to queries about hindrances in the process, completing set up, and securing funding, Abernathy summed things up with a statement about the primary difficulties he faced in the construction of the weather station. “The main problem was finding equipment such as a mast to use for it. Also, communications between the weather station and the base station were unreliable, and it was a challenge to find a spot to set it up.”
Gene Scronce, a biology and environmental science teacher at Discovery, provided a metal conduit pole that would serve as the mast of the weather station. The sensor currently in place was designed to be used with a much larger mast, which presented a few problems in the form of excess wiring and issues in maintaining a connection between the sensor and console.
Abernathy says that the weather station will be used mainly by the school district, and that every school will have the chance to request to use it. He encourages others to find ways to integrate it into their relevant curriculum specifically those studying local weather patterns in environmental science.
This model of it is primarily used for testing purposes, specifically establishing a network connection with the other weather stations in Catawba County. In the future, he plans to create a more advanced model that will be larger and deliver more accurate data. The second weather station will allow anyone with the radio frequency and proper interpreting system to access real-time weather data. The I.D. of this particular weather station is “North Newton” KNCNEWTO5 at Weather Underground.
Abernathy has reached out the the central office to ask about the possible of further antenna installations around the district. Viewmont Elementary, Claremont Elementary, and Sherrills Ford Elementary might also be places for data collection in the future. He is currently in need of other local business willing to host an antenna in the hopes of expanding his project.