"What's in the Air" student sensor. Photo by Megan Wood/inewsource

San Diego State students headed out into communities of San Diego to test the air and talk to the residents affected by varying levels of pollutants. The students were armed with homemade sensor kits to measure fine particles and gases. Here are their unvarnished accounts from the field:

Barrio Logan Observations by Torrey Bailey (Sensor: Bot)

During the month of April, I spent eight days in Barrio Logan, San Diego collecting hour-long sets of air quality data with my sensor. In mid-to-late April, I took turns collecting data outside of Ryan Bros. Coffee (1894 Main St, San Diego) and Mercado Del Barrio (Cesar E. Chavez Pkwy San Diego). These two shops are across the street from each other and appear to be social hubs in the neighborhood. Many of the local industry workers and Navy men would stop by Ryan Bros. Coffee during their breaks or after their shifts. Meanwhile, Mercado Del Barrio caters to many local families, offering several eating establishments including a pizza place and an ice cream parlor. Youthful teenagers frequently ride their bikes through Mercado Del Barrio. At any of these locations, you can hear traffic from the major cross streets zooming by as well as the railroad warning signal. Typically, I went during the late afternoon and early evening hours when it was still sunny outside and temperatures ranged from high 60s to low 80s. Towards my later observations, there was a stronger breeze than in the first days. I would choose an outside table to sit and set my sensor upon it with an open lid.

Click here for a map of the sensor readings

Barrio Logan Observations by Camelle Sison (Sensor: Glam)

I did my 8 observations at Chicano Park in Barrio Logan. The park is between National Avenue and S. Evans Street San Diego. I typically went on a Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. The exact dates were April 7, 9, 14, 16, 21, 23, 28 and 29. There are four freeway bridges surrounding Chicano Park. During the times of my observation, there were many cars on the freeway bridges because 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. is typically the time when people are still on the road commuting to work or school. Therefore, there is more debris in the environment during these times. I can actually feel the debris go into my eyes coming from the freeway bridges above me. I had my sensor lid open every time at a sitting height and you could actually see all the dirt inside the box after every observation. All of the mobile pollution from the freeway falls down onto Chicano Park. For one of these observations, the weather was gloomy but the rest of days were sunny. The weather conditions at the time of my observations are typically when the sun is already out and shining bright.

Click here for a map of the sensor readings

Barrio Logan Observations by Yareli (Sensor: Sensi)

My spot measurements were in 14 different locations in Barrio Logan. I have two measurements on Logan Ave. along the Interstate-5 freeway. Another spot was on the corner of Logan Ave. and Sampson St. Further down west Sampson St. I took measurements where Newton Ave., Main St., and E. Harbor Dr. intersect. One of the observations was on the corner of Main St. and Sicard St. Also, another on the corner of Main and S. Evan St. I also took a measurement behind Chicano Park on National Ave. I took two on Cesar E. Chavez Pkwy where Main St. and Newton Ave. intersect. And finally, one on the corner of Main St. and Beardsley St. Measurements were taken in between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. on two different days. During the measurements the conditions in the areas did not change drastically but the score averages on the two days differed. It was from mostly sunny to party cloudy on both days. The wind shifted from 13mph to 7mph. The sensor lid was open in all of my readings and the sensor position varied from sitting to standing height at each reading. (Note: some sensor readings were lost due to technical issues with the microSD card holding the data, so new spot measurements were made.)

Click here for a map of the sensor readings

Barrio Logan Observations by Ryan Posner (Sensor: Steve)

The place that I made my observations was Memorial Park in Barrio Logan. It’s located on the corner of S. 28th St. and Ocean View Blvd. Unfortunately, I was only able to make five observations with my sensor in this location. The days that I went were April 3 at 1 p.m., April 4 at 3 p.m., April 10 at 1 p.m., April 17 at 2 p.m. and April 24 at 2 p.m. While observing at Memorial Park, the environment was quite dynamic. When I went on Fridays at 1 p.m., I would enter the park and there would be no more than 20 people there. People there at that time were usually lounging either under the many trees or on the benches, or were waiting for their kid(s) to get out of the elementary school next door. Also during this time, you could hear a recycling center at work, which I later found out was just a few blocks away from the park. During this time nobody was using the jungle gym or baseball field that was also attached to the park. When I went on Fridays at 2 p.m. I would see the elementary school let out around 2:30 p.m. and many kids flooded straight from the school to play at the park. At this time there was the most activity in the park that I had seen in my five observations. Lastly, when I went on a Saturday, there were kids using the baseball field for Little League and there were more children in general. In total, there were about 35-40 people in the park at that time, mostly children. Weather conditions at the park were calm, outside of my observations on April 24. The temperature generally sat between 70-80 degrees, according to my iPhone, with low winds. On April 3-4 there was a lot of cloud cover, but the winds were still calm. April 10 and 17 there were barely any clouds in the sky, and the temperature was over 80 degrees for most of the time I was observing. On April 24, however, there was a storm coming in, so there was a lot of cloud cover and the winds were the strongest that they had been. This was the only time during my observations that the temperature fell below 70 degrees. While it did not rain hard during my observations that day, I could feel a slight drizzle from time-to-time, which could have altered my data. I kept my sensor lid open for all observations except the one on April 24, because of the rain. For all my observations I had my sensor sitting on top of a table on a stack of notebooks, so that I could closely simulate the air someone would be breathing if they were sitting at one of these tables.

Click here for a map of the sensor readings

Logan Heights Observations by Natalia Sevilla (Sensor: Ntlia)

I measured the air quality in the neighborhood of Logan Heights on Newton Avenue and 30th street next to Interstate-5, which is also right next to many residential homes. The houses on this block face directly to the freeway where their front yard has the greatest exposure to pollutants from the thousands of cars that drive by on the freeway everyday. A lot of the same cars commute back and forth on this freeway whether it is to go to school, or work and I noticed that there is a lot more traffic in the mornings than in the evenings around seven. I measured the air in the mornings and in the evenings because I wanted to know what the difference would be in the quality of the air. I had my lid closed the entire time during measurements. The weather in the mornings was mostly cloudy with white sky, somewhat windy and sometimes there was light rain and there were just a few cars parked on the block the road that was sometimes wet. The weather around seven in the evening was cool and windy with some rain drops, it was dark and I noticed all of the cars were parked on the block, as if everyone had came back home from their day activities. In the morning there were lots of cars driving by on the freeway more than in the evening. The sensor was positioned at a standing height.

Click here for a map of the sensor readings

Logan Heights Observations by Nancy Kirk (Sensor: R2D2)

My sensor recorded data outside of Logan Elementary, except for two separate times when I went outside of the library. The days I went were April 14 at 11 a.m., 16 at 5 p.m., 17 at 1:50 p.m., 21 about 6 p.m., 23 at 10:35 a.m., twice on the 25 at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., and 26 at 11:38 pm. I was unable to go at a consistent time every week due to work and other obligations, but I always tried to go in the daytime. The environment was sunny most of the days, except for one day I went it was overcast. Other than that, it tended to be warm and clear skies for all of my observation. I left the lid open most of the time, unless I forgot to. It was positioned at sitting height, mostly because I couldn’t find anywhere to place it at standing height.

Click here for a map of the sensor readings

Bankers Hill Observations by Eduardo (Sensor: Edu)

I had 8 observations with our air quality sensor in the neighborhood of Bankers Hill. The measurements happened on Laurel Street, sometimes by 6th Avenue and other times by 5th Avenue. I tracked data twice on Maple Canyon Trail too. The observations were made in the morning and afternoons during two weeks. Some days were sunnier than others but it never rained and the temperature was more or less the same. Also, it was a bit windy in each observation. The sensor lid was always open at table height. I also walked with the sensor along the trail.

Click here for a map of the sensor readings

Bankers Hill Observations by Jennifer (Sensor: Baby)

I took my measurements on different spots of Bankers Hill: 5th Ave. between Kalmia and Laurel St.; 6th Ave. playground (Balboa Park) between Spruce and Thorn St.; 6th Ave. and Palm St (Balboa Park); and 5th Ave. between Redwood and Spruce St. I went on April 20, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28 and 29. I went on different times every day. Some of the times I went were in the morning at 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and others in the afternoon around 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Some days it was cloudy and chilly and others sunny and hot. In all of the spots I went to take my measurements, there were a lot of people walking with dogs and a lot of cars passing by. Sometimes I kept my sensor lid opened and others closed. The sensor was positioned at a sitting height most of the times.

Click here for a map of the sensor readings

Bankers Hill Observations by Patrick (Sensor: Hal1000)

I went to the Starbucks on 5th Ave. in Bankers Hill and sat on a table outside the store. Other times I sat in front of the pizza shop next door. I went on April 10, 13, 19, 20, 24, 26 and 27. I went during various times of the day depending on availability. Some days it was 11 a.m., others it was 3:20 p.m. The environment was usually sunny and breezy. There were a couple cloudy times, but mostly it was hot, sunny and always breezy. The sensor lid was open. The sensor was positioned at a sitting height, just like all the other people who were sitting down in front of Starbucks.

Click here for a map of the sensor readings

Chollas Creek Observations by KC (Sensor: Dusty)

For my observations, I went to Azalea Community Park during the middle of the day (between 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.). I sat on the other side of the parking lot and the people in close proximity to me were generally laying on the grass or sitting at another table. On the other side, however, people were playing sports and occasionally holding a barbeque. The weather was always breezy, most of the time going eastward where the freeway is. I left the sensor on a table at sitting height with its lid open.

Click here for a map of the sensor readings

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