With a face familiar to just about every one of his fellow classmates, you could say that sophomore William Gillespie carries a kind of rock star status around the campus at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein.
He can’t throw a football over 50 yards, nor can he hit a ball further than anyone else on the school baseball team. But if you want to know the weather outside today or what mother nature has planned for the future, then Will is your guy.
The official meteorologist for Carmel’s in-school Digital News Network, Gillespie’s weather segments are legendary. And by that we mean Tom Skilling-like legendary. And they’ve been that way ever since Gillespie first stepped foot on campus as an incoming freshman. He quickly gained sort of a cult following and while a bit on the shy side, has taken it all in stride.
With an eye always to the sky, Gillespie received the go-ahead from school officials earlier this year for the purchase of an Earth Networks WeatherBug weather station. Researching, creating, and then using a sizable PowerPoint presentation to gain Principal Jason Huther’s approval, it took just under 30 minutes for Huther to grant Gillespie the go-ahead on the $3,500 a year system.
But it was more than just helping pad his meteorology resume that spurred Gillespie to encourage school officials to rally around a new WeatherBug system. Even more important was how the system was going to help play an integral role in Carmel’s curriculum. In addition to Zoology, AP Biology, and Dual Credit Environmental Biology, two new classes have been created and will benefit by utilizing the new WeatherBug system. They include Dual Credit Human Ecological Footprint and Earth and Space.
“I knew the weather station was going to provide information on current weather, forecasts, interactive weather data graphs, and possible exposure during Channel 9’s weather segments,” explains Gillespie. “But the most important factors to gaining approval for the WeatherBug system was always being able to secure authentic weather data and using the data we collect to help educate ourselves on climate change and sustainability throughout the globe.”
In addition to having high-definition cameras and weather displays in Carmel’s hallways, the decision was made to also add an important WeatherBug upgrade: a lightning detection and alert system for the school’s outdoor athletic programs.
Utilizing a wet-bulb temperature system, WeatherBug can also provide data on heat stress in direct sunlight by calculating temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle, and cloud cover. This value is a safety feature and representative of the amount of heat stress on athletes and those working outdoors such as football practices during the hot summer months.
In addition, an online weather data portal features more than 80 map layers displaying different weather conditions; live lightning data collected from the Earth Networks Total Lightning Network can help make decisions about outdoor sports events with the potential of inclement weather, while real-time weather alerts can be sent to multiple people advising of tornadoes, thunderstorms, and more.
“Willie has a weather station at his home, of course, and did a ton of research on the WeatherBug system, including working to set up a conference call with Earth Networks (which owns WeatherBug),”
explains, Joe Schultz, Carmel Catholic’s director of information technology. “We knew the science department had some new, cutting-edge classes lined up for next year, so Willie put together a slideshow and within 30 minutes our principal was so impressed that he approved it on the spot.”
Weather data from the station is also sent to a program called GLOBE, a worldwide science and education program. From there, teachers can access personalized science curriculum incorporating weather data from stations around the world.
“A large number of activities oriented toward education of the Earth and its atmosphere can be utilized with the system,” adds Science Department Chair Michelle Titterton. “Thanks to Willie, the WeatherBug station will allow our students to use authentic data collected from right here on the Carmel campus.”
In addition, future plans are being discussed to utilize WeatherBug to further help train teachers and students, incorporate collected data into class curriculums, provide opportunities for additional research projects and science fairs, and assist with Carmel’s notable Step-Up program with Stanford University.
Schultz says that the WeatherBug system should be installed and up and running by the end of the school year if not sooner.