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Pollution displays are coming to school drop-off zones

Picture courtesy of Vincent Horiuchi, Public Relations Associate University of Utah College of Engineering

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah  — Ever wonder how much pollution your car is emitting while idling at your child’s school? You could find out next year.

Kerry Kelly, an assistant chemical engineering professor at the University of Utah is teaming with several other researchers, including computer scientists and social and behavioral researchers to develop Air Quality Displays. They will work similarly to the speed signs which tell drivers, in real-time, how fast they’re going.

“We pitched this idea to the National Science Foundation and we just recently learned that we were going to be awarded this project,” said Kelly.  

It will take about a year to complete the pollution displays but there are already schools waiting to have them installed.

“We’re partnering with some Salt Lake City schools and a school up in Cache Valley,” said Kelly. “These air quality measurements will not only include idling emissions but also include meteorological measurements.”

Messages on the displays will alert drivers about how much pollution is in the area.
There will be three to four sensors at breathing level at each location.  Some at the height of a child and others for adults.  They will be a good indication of what everyone is breathing into their lungs, said Kelly.
But the Air Quality Displays won’t be only in school zones.  The project calls for several to be installed at hospital drop off zones as well.
“The first challenge is to integrate. It is to get the integration system from the sensor measurements. Then we need to figure out a way to get feedback to the people,” Kelly stated.
To that end, the project is bringing in community members to craft messages about the pollution they’re emitting while idling.  

The hope, Kelly stated, is to give people the opportunity to do the right thing.