Carnegie Mellon University

Satellite image of the amazon rainforest from 1986-2020

October 07, 2021

Rounce’s Summer STEM Program Reaches High Schoolers

This past summer, CEE Assistant Professor David Rounce was approached to participate in a new opportunity—utilizing funding from a NASA/PA Space Grant Consortium to reach high school students. The program was led by Megan Fahey in the College of Engineering and Rounce also worked with CEE Junior Reilly McManus to co-teach virtual classes and supervise projects. 

Rounce says that since he arrived at CMU, he’s been thinking about ways to get students excited about satellite and remote sensing data. “So, we developed the idea to have students work with Google Earth Engine to create time lapses of satellite imagery.” He believes that high school students would thrive in the program because of their age and knowledge—they can easily pick up the programming skills needed to work with Google Earth Engine and experiment with software.

Students were broken into four teams—glaciers, deforestation, urbanization, and water resources—and tasked with developing javascript codes to work with Google Earth Engine. They then applied that code to different sites. “This way, they were able to work together as a team, but also take ownership of a specific piece of the project,” Rounce says.

Collaborating with students on projects was especially fulfilling to Rounce. He was motivated by the students’ excitement at new discoveries—especially when they produced time lapse videos and saw significant changes from satellite data. “They also asked a lot of great questions and really dove into the work. I was quite proud of them.” He adds that some students went above and beyond the project scope—requiring him to develop additional new tutorials and resources to challenge them.

Rounce mentions that the students worked with data that “is revolutionizing the way that we can monitor the impact of our development on the environment—and the impacts of climate change.” He believes that working with such significant information will empower the students to continue developing their skills, making a difference in the future.

While the program was funded for only one summer, Rounce hopes to find ways to continue it next year with in-person interaction. “Hopefully, the pandemic will change such that we can all be together and further strengthen the teamwork and connection.”

13-climate-action-600-min.jpgThis story demonstrates CMU's work toward attaining Sustainable Development Goal 13 of the 17 Global Goals to create a more equitable and viable planet by 2030.