I have an unusual spin on technology in the classroom tonight. This is something that might not be expected in a Computer Science class and yet it is one of the most useful tools I can think of. I am talking about an automated weather station like those available at Accurite.com While weather stations provide an education experience and foster interest in technology and science in general, most CTE educators would be hard pressed to justify having one in the computer science room. That is a shame.
Weather stations, aside from providing an interesting conversation piece, are an excellent source of retrievable, sortable, and useful data. Weather stations, for the most part, will connect to a PC and provide a great way to learn about collating and manipulating scientific data and making predictions. This is one of the most important uses of computer technology. Computers are wonderful tools for statistics. Weather data is tailor made for this kind of work. Weather data is one of the best sources of data for practice with data bases, SQL language, and spreadsheet construction and analysis. At a cost of $150, the data generated and lesson possibilities make a weather station a great investment. For the STEM instructors among us, building an Arduino based weather station to upload data to a classroom website or service is a great project.
A few caveats are in order. Make sure that your weather station will store and upload data. It is also a plus if the station can upload to a service like http://www.wunderground.com but it definitely needs to be able to store data and upload it to a spreadsheet or some other data container. The Accurite 1036 is a great example. If a weather station is outside of your classroom budget, many sites like wunderground and weather.com offer a data stream that can be accessed via the Internet. Whatever the source, weather data can make teaching data analysis and storage much easier on the instructor and must more interesting for the student.