A large bug has taken up residence on the roof of St. Michael School in Newark, but school officials don’t seem to be particularly concerned. On the contrary, they actually invited the bug to their school and welcomed it with open arms.
That’s because the bug is not an actual insect, but rather a WeatherBug tracking station, which was installed May 1. WeatherBug, a global weather network, uses thousands of these tracking stations to provide up-to-date information about the weather conditions at locations throughout the world.
More than 8,000 WeatherBug tracking stations are distributed across in the United States alone, with more than 100 television stations using the data the stations generate in their local forecasts, according to www.weatherbugmedia.com.
The tracking station at St. Michael’s looks like a long pole or antenna incorporating various instruments and sensors that record data about current weather conditions at the school. The tracking station records the temperature, relative humidity, heat index and barometric pressure. It also measures precipitation, and tracks wind speed and direction.
Some tracking stations also feature cameras. Although the tracking station at St. Michael’s currently does not have a camera, school officials hope to add one in the next few months, said Suzanne Tulloch, public-relations and development coordinator for the school.
Thanks to WeatherBug’s streaming software and a computer inside the school, this data is automatically sent to the WeatherBug network and the local NBC affiliate, WHEC-TV10. There are 41 tracking stations within WHEC’s coverage area, and many of these stations are located at public schools. McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester is the only other Catholic school in the station’s coverage area with a WeatherBug tracking station, according to www.10nbc.com.
School officials decided to become involved in the WeatherBug network because they thought it would benefit both the school community and the community at large, Tulloch said.
The school currently draws students from 11 different parishes, both in Newark and surrounding communities, Tulloch said. The new tracking station will help keep all parents of St. Michael’s students up-to-date about weather conditions in Newark.
Before the tracking station was installed at St. Michael’s, the next closest tracking stations were in Pittsford, Sodus, Port Byron, Romulus and Bristol Mountain. That meant St. Michael’s parents watching Channel 10 newscasts could see what the temperature was in those areas, but didn’t know what to expect at their children’s school.
“We service a lot of areas. When we watched Channel 10, there was a big gap in the WeatherBug system,” she said. “This was a chance to have the weather coming from St. Michael’s School on a regular basis,” Tulloch said.
Current weather conditions at the school also can be accessed via the Internet at any time of the day or night. Visitors to the NBC affiliate’s Web site can click on the weather link, then click on a map-dot labeled St. Michael School. School officials also hope to gain some publicity and name recognition from this venture as well, Tulloch added.
The students also will benefit directly from their school’s involvement with WeatherBug, she noted. As part of the weather network, the school has access to WeatherBug Achieve software, which helps teachers integrate math, science and geography lessons with real-world information.
Through this software, students can stay abreast of current meteorological situations elsewhere. If the tracking station had been installed a year ago, for example, the students would have been able to view images and date from hurricane-stricken areas last fall, Tulloch noted.
“As different issues come about globally and certainly scientifically, (they) will be worked into the curriculum,” Tulloch said.
The tracking station was obtained and installed through a grant from WHEC-TV10 and several private donations, Tulloch said. The school will pay an annual subscription fee to remain connected to the WeatherBug network. But the program’s benefits far outweigh its costs, Tulloch said.
“WeatherBug has been a very exciting thing for us,” she said.