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Students of Purdue Observing Tornadic Thunderstorms for Research (SPOTTR) A Severe Storms Field Work Course at Purdue University

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  • 1 Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
  • | 2 Evaluation and Learning Research Center, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
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Abstract

A summer course has been developed at Purdue University that leverages students’ intrinsic desire to observe tornadoes as a motivator for learning severe storms forecasting. Relative to previous “storm chasing” courses described in the literature, the Students of Purdue Observing Tornadic Thunderstorms for Research (SPOTTR) course is enhanced by active learning exercises, career exploration activities, and the inclusion of research-grade meteorological instrumentation in order to provide an authentic in-field experiential learning scenario. After teaching severe weather forecasting skills and deployment techniques for several meteorological instruments (such as a mobile radar, radiosondes, and disdrometers), the instructors then guide the students on a 1-week field trip to the Great Plains, where the group executes a miniature field campaign to collect high-quality meteorological observations in and near severe storms. On days with no targetable severe weather, the participants visit sites deemed beneficial to the students’ professional development. The final week of the course is spent performing retrospective case studies based on the observations collected, and distilling lessons learned. Surveys given to SPOTTR students show that students’ understanding of severe storms forecasting, technical skills, and career aspirations all improved as a result of having participated in the SPOTTR course, affirming the efficacy of the course design.

Corresponding author: Robin L. Tanamachi, rtanamachi@purdue.edu

Abstract

A summer course has been developed at Purdue University that leverages students’ intrinsic desire to observe tornadoes as a motivator for learning severe storms forecasting. Relative to previous “storm chasing” courses described in the literature, the Students of Purdue Observing Tornadic Thunderstorms for Research (SPOTTR) course is enhanced by active learning exercises, career exploration activities, and the inclusion of research-grade meteorological instrumentation in order to provide an authentic in-field experiential learning scenario. After teaching severe weather forecasting skills and deployment techniques for several meteorological instruments (such as a mobile radar, radiosondes, and disdrometers), the instructors then guide the students on a 1-week field trip to the Great Plains, where the group executes a miniature field campaign to collect high-quality meteorological observations in and near severe storms. On days with no targetable severe weather, the participants visit sites deemed beneficial to the students’ professional development. The final week of the course is spent performing retrospective case studies based on the observations collected, and distilling lessons learned. Surveys given to SPOTTR students show that students’ understanding of severe storms forecasting, technical skills, and career aspirations all improved as a result of having participated in the SPOTTR course, affirming the efficacy of the course design.

Corresponding author: Robin L. Tanamachi, rtanamachi@purdue.edu
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