Saturday, May 25th, 2024

Developing Next Generation of Meteorologists

Millersville students crush cans and unleash a tornado in a bottle.

When the Milanof-Schock Library in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania approached Millersville University’s Earth Science Department seeking assistance with their STEM Club activities on weather, they probably didn’t anticipate the degree of interest and enthusiasm they would receive.

Alyssa Canistraci (left) and Patrick Roelant point out characteristics of a thunderstorm. Photo by Tim Keebler.

“Three Millersville meteorology majors. Timothy Keebler, Patrick Roelant and Alyssa Cannistraci took on the project this month with vigor, providing two groups of students enrolled in the Library’s STEM Club with an exciting, colorful and informative presentation one week, followed by an assortment of hands-on activities the next week.,” explained Dr. Rich Clark, chair of Earth Sciences at MU.

Alyssa Cannistraci demonstrates how external atmospheric pressure can crush a can in an instant when the can, saturated with water vapor by boiling a small amount liquid water on a hot plate, is suddenly cooled, reducing the pressure inside the can to less than 1/10 that of the external pressure. The result, an instantaneous crush of the can. Photo by Tim Keebler.
Patrick Roelant demonstrates electrostatics with a Van de Graaff generator. Photo by Tim Keebler.

Activities included some of the classics like crushing a can with the pressure gradient force, tornado in a bottle, Van de Graaff generator, and launching of a special weather balloon called a PIBAL, or Pilot Balloon, that students signed and attached a return address.

“Not only were the STEM Club students introduced to the science of weather, but the MU meteorology students derived the satisfaction that comes with sharing their passion about their discipline and providing a service to their community,” says Clark.

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