18 January 2021

The Schools Clean Air Monitoring Project in Abingdon (SCAMPA) has rapidly grown into the ASP’s flagship project for 2020-21 and probably beyond. Almost entirely funded by a substantial Schools Outreach Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry, SCAMPA is a collaborative effort involving 13 local secondary and primary schools working together to monitor air quality and encourage science enquiry skills in their pupils. Each school has spent the last few months deploying diffusion tubes to measure monthly average levels of nitrogen dioxide, setting up particulate matter sensors linked to Raspberry Pi computers and taking weather observations to help with interpretation of the varying levels of air pollutants detected. A team of scientists is supporting the project including Dr Rowena Fletcher-Wood of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Environmental Chemistry Group; Dr Zoe Fleming an atmospheric chemist at the University of Chile; Tony Bush of the Oxaria project and Dr Valerio Ferracci of the Cranfield Institute.

The project has also relied on extensive support from Abingdon School and Radley College sixth formers, such as Jake Wallis whose work on evaluation of the Raspberry Pi sensors featured in another news article last year. Jake’s efforts have resulted in a number of SCAMPA schools being able to log data automatically to the Luftdaten air quality sensor website where real time values of particulate matter levels are displayed, including those from sensors at Abingdon’s senior school and prep school sites. Lower sixth computer scientist, John Bonchristiano, has used his skills to write software to interrogate the site and produce daily graphs of measurements at all the SCAMPA sensors working so far. Geographers Will Haynes and Noah Macer have used GIS to map the diffusion tube data and school locations on a website which they will continue to develop as the project grows.
Several others have contributed by preparing briefing sheets on the chemistry of air pollution for primary school teams, including Caleb Maijeh and Dominic Wood.

SCAMPA has recently come to the attention of local politicians with an interest in air quality including Abingdon North’s Councillor Emily Smith and Dr Suzanne Bartington, councillor and lecturer in public health at the University of Birmingham. Dr Bartington was so impressed by the project and its potential to engage schools and communities in air quality research that she invited ASP Coordinator, Jeremy Thomas, to give a presentation on SCAMPA at the University of Oxford’s annual Oxford Air Quality Meeting (OAQM). Professionals participating in the online conference from all over the world were impressed by what SCAMPA had achieved in a short time, especially in current, difficult circumstances for schools, and were very interested in future possibilities for using schools as community hubs for research and science engagement.

It was a great opportunity for an ASP project to be represented at a professional, scientific conference and a great example of the power of school partnerships and of supporting opportunities outside the classroom for the benefit of the pupils at all the schools involved. The project has now reached a very exciting stage where pupils can start to analyse the data being collected and begin to ask questions about air pollution, its sources and how individual actions can affect it locally.

The photos below show:

  1. Third year Environmental Service group deploying their first diffusion tube on the Yang Science Centre
  2. OA Nick Austin with his class at Thomas Reade Primary School looking at a live display of their Raspberry Pi sensor measurements
  3. A pupil at Caldecott Primary School taking daily weather observations for SCAMPA

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