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Delta County students present air quality research

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Photo submitted Students in Delta County use a handheld monitor designed at CU Boulder to test air quality.

Since January, nearly 100 Delta County high schoolers have been conducting hands-on air quality research, thanks to a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and three local high schools.

And now the students will present their projects at two symposiums that are free and open to the public:

• Wednesday, April 11, 6-7:30 p.m., Paonia High School, 846 Grand Avenue, Paonia. This will feature student projects from Jim Frasier's class at Paonia High School and Michael Munoz's class at Hotchkiss High School. The keynote speaker will be CU Boulder Environmental Engineering Professor Joe Ryan.

• Thursday, April 12, 6-7:30 p.m., Delta High School, 1400 Pioneer Road, Delta. Students from Ben Graves' class at Delta High School will present their research. The keynote speaker will be Joanna Casey-Gordon, who recently completed her doctorate in mechanical engineering at CU Boulder.

These events, which will include free pizza dinners, are co-sponsored by the Western Slope Conservation Center.

Under the guidance of CU Boulder mechanical engineering associate professor Michael Hannigan, graduate and undergraduate students have worked closely with teachers from Delta, Hotchkiss and Paonia high schools to help the students design projects that investigate local air quality issues.

The high school students designed their own research project, collected samples using low-cost, next-generation air quality monitors developed in Hannigan's lab and then analyzed their own data. Projects include: investigating carbon dioxide levels in classrooms, which may cause sleepiness; differences in carbon dioxide emissions from a modified truck (a performance chip removed so there's no limit on exhaust) versus an unmodified truck; and a project looking at how dogs sleeping in the bedroom with humans affects carbon dioxide levels.

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