Those who live in the Salt Lake Valley usually rely on the news to find important air quality warnings, but one student asked why we couldn’t just rely on ourselves instead. Tom Becnel is a Ph.D. student studying electric engineering with a passion for pollution. Tom Becnel and his team created a custom-made board with environmental, gas (VOC) and particulate matter (PM) sensors that collect and send data through Wi-Fi.
AQ&U, Becnel’s research project that distributed boards all through Salt Lake City, is creating an online map for pollution patterns and zones in real time. Citizen scientists have access to the database that is created by the dispersed boards to pursue their own research goals.
The board is called AirU and will soon be commercially available from Becnel’s company: Tetrad. The wearable sensor collects pollution data in real time on an app that can be accessed through an individual’s phone to display personalized exposure data. Already, the School of Medicine at the U is buying the devices to learn about air quality sensitive patients’ asthmatic episodes and the type of pollution exposure he or she is exposed to.
Becnel thanks his advisors, Pierre-Emmanuel Gaillardon and Kerry Kelly. He also attributes his project’s success to his team members Henry Gilbert, Quang Nguyen, and Scott Gale as well as his joy in pursuing complex engineering projects.
Find this article and a lot more in the 2020 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.