GISMO 2017!

This weekend, members of my lab and I had the great pleasure of participating in GISMO! This event, Girls Investigating Science and Math Opportunities, is held each year at the Kalamazoo Math and Science Center (KAMSC) and organized by Susan Fisher and Carol Baker. Middle-school girls from schools in Kalamazoo County come for a day of events and exercises exploring math and science from different perspectives.

Our perspective? Sound maps!

We've used sound maps in our research to visualize how sound varies over time and space. The maps show areas of high noise (in red), of low noise (in green), and a gradient of sound levels in between. The maps below show sound levels across 15 different sites in prairie, forest and urban areas, with unique scales across the sites (image from Job et al. 2016).

Sounds maps in three habitats

We challenged GISMO girls to map the KAMSC soundscape! We headed outside armed with regular maps of the KAMSC campus, with notecards to record data and observations of the sources generating sounds, and sound pressure level meters to record sound pressure levels (SPLs) at 10 locations on the campus. Each group had to read their maps and find these locations, which they did with ease, and then determine the highest SPLs at their points. Once all groups had found their points and measured the SPLs, we climbed up KAMSC's infamous 84 steps and then made maps.

With color pencils, an SPL scale and their data, the girls made predictions about what the sound maps would look like. Starting with the measured SPLs at the 10 points, we asked them to interpolate - predict how the sound levels would change between the points.

Predicting sound maps

The students made excellent predictions! Here's one student's predicted sound map:

A student's sound map

And while the GISMO girls were busy with their maps, Erin was building sound maps with ArcGIS. The girls could compare their maps with those generated by GIS. Three groups of girls collected SPLs and made maps, and we built three maps based on their data:

We had a great time with the students, who were engaged and curious and wonderful! They asked great questions and impressed us with what they knew about their sound environment. Thanks to all GISMO girls for a great morning. Thanks to Susan and Carol for organizing the event. And thanks to the Sound Ecology Lab crew, Jonathan Eiseman, Erin Grabarczyk, Amy Janik and Neal Zoellick:


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