New Zealand’s youngest scientists use interactive tool to learn about air quality

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They may not be old enough to start school yet, but that isn’t stopping children in South Auckland getting to grips with science.

Last Friday, children at Good Seeds Childcare Centre in Mangere, South Auckland had the opportunity to test the prototype of an interactive apparatus designed to visually display measurements of air quality.

The prototype

The interactive tool, designed by NIWA‘s Gustavo Olivares and Bruno Kinoshita in collaboration with Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, is equipped with four sensors that capture and display measurements of temperature, dust, motion and carbon dioxide.  

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The prototype has been designed with large, brightly coloured sensors to enable the children to interact with each sensor while instantly seeing the results on the display monitor. [Gustavo Olivares, NIWA]

The children were able to make the sensors respond through hands-on activities such as placing ice in front of the temperature sensor or blowing sand into the dust sensor. They were then able to see the changes in measurements colourfully displayed in the monitor, giving them the opportunity to relate day-to-day activities to changes in the air.

Students engaging with science

Gustavo Olivares, NIWA air quality scientist, says it was exciting to see the level of interest and engagement by the young students.  

“We were unsure how such small children would interact with our sensor and how we would keep them interested. But it just showed us that given the opportunity to explore their curiosity, the children are very engaged. They just got it."

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Students at Good Seeds Childcare Centre in Mangere testing the interactive prototype. [Sarah Morgan, COMET Auckland]

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NIWA air quality scientist Gustavo Olivares explains to the children what they are seeing on the monitor. [Sarah Morgan, COMET Auckland]

Next steps

NIWA will continue to work on the prototype and test it with other Early Childhood Education students in hopes that at the end of the project they will have a workable tool, able to be replicated across the country.

A Nation of Curious Minds

This project is part of the Participatory Science Platform, an initiative under the Government's strategic plan to build science and technology engagement, A Nation of Curious Minds. It is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and managed by the City of Manukau Education Trust (COMET) Auckland.

Further information

Read more about a Nation of Curious Minds - He Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara

COMET Auckland's website