STARKVILLE — A new weather station sits high atop the Starkville Academy football stadium press box in Volunteer blue and orange, facing the southwest and ready to see its first storm.
The private school joins Mississippi State University as one of two homes in the state to a station by WeatherSTEM, a weather company based in Florida.
WeatherSTEM has stations across the world and is used by professional sports teams like the New York Yankees, WeatherSTEM Chief Executive Officer Ed Mansouri said.
The stations are equipped with a thermometer, solar radiation sensor, wind vane, barometer, camera and more, and schools can use it for both athletics and academic curriculum.
In a meeting with SA stakeholders, administrators and coaches Wednesday following the system’s installation, Mansouri spoke about all of its uses, including lightning detection and heat guidance. Coaches and administrators can opt to receive notifications via text, email or banner notifications through a special app.
The system can cost anywhere between $10,000 to $12,000 and was anonymously donated to Starkville Academy. SA Head of School Jeremy Nicholas said donations like the WeatherSTEM enhance life for the students beyond their basic curriculum.
“We’re still learning what possibilities will exist,” Nicholas said. “… We do monitor heat indexes and make sure the kids are safe and hydrated when it comes to heat and being mindful of lightning. We do a good job of that, but this system seems to simplify, while at the same time providing more data that can be used to make real-time decisions.”
WeatherSTEM Field Operations Leader Timothy Dotson said the system gives online updates about real-time conditions, which is different from a forecast which predicts conditions.
There are real-time updates based on data from various weather stations to determine how far away lightning is from a designated location whether it is the SA football field, soccer field or at an away game.
The heat guidance takes into consideration the heat index, which combines temperature and humidity, and the wet bulb globe temperature, which measures the effects of sun and wind. The presentations are followed by quizzes, and it is completely free with no login required at weatherstem.com/learn.
The website also has free education content with short digital presentations equipped with video discussing an array of topics such as weather and aviation, weather and baseball, best times to grow plants and various recent hurricanes.
There are existing classes at SA like AP Environmental Science and the elementary science, technology, engineering and math labs where the data and content from WeatherSTEM could be used, Nicholas said. It also opens the door for possible new courses like a meteorology elective.
The camera on the station faces South Louisville Street as Dotson said most of the weather in this region of the country comes from the southwest, and while it faces roughly 70 percent of the sky, there is a point of reference in the photo.
To Nicholas it seemed natural to bring WeatherSTEM to campus after Mike Brown, state climatologist for Mississippi and MSU professor of meteorology and climatology, brought up the benefits of the system.
“This came about through our connection with Mike Brown,” Nicholas said. “… Mike knowing what (MSU) is doing, knowing we communicate regularly for weather because he’s extremely skilled at what he does, it was just a natural overflow of what they were doing there. ‘Hey, Jeremy, we’re about to bring this in to MSU. I think it could benefit Starkville Academy. Would you be interested in talking more?’ Absolutely because there’s a great trust factor in Mike and what he recommends.”
The real-time data of the weather stations at MSU and Starkville Academy as well as the lightning and heat guidance are all available to the public at oktibbeha.weatherstem.com. Nicholas said though the station is at SA, its data will remain public.
“We don’t view this only as property of Starkville Academy,” Nicholas said. “If people around Starkville High want to use it, if Starkville Christian — our camera is pointed in a southwestern direction which means it’s kind of looking behind where Starkville Christian is. If there is somebody in the community that can benefit, we’re here to help this community.”
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