From eighth-graders to rocket scientists, Boulder students and employees will have an opportunity this week to learn about the effects of air pollution, smoking, asthma and allergies on breathing and healthy lungs.
The Breathe Better Bus was created by the Colorado Allergy and Asthma Centers' Breathe Better Foundation with the help of University of Colorado at Boulder engineering students. The bus will visit Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Casey Middle School and the CU-Boulder campus as part of its Boulder County kick-off.
Ball Aerospace employees and their families will explore the bus' hands-on exhibits during a company health fair Wednesday, Nov. 7, from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The bus will then travel to Casey Middle School, where eighth-grade students will visit the exhibits Wednesday from noon to 2:45 p.m. and Thursday, Nov. 8, from 7:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
The bus will then go to the west entrance of the CU-Boulder Engineering Center on Thursday from noon to 3 p.m., when about 100 high school students in the Colorado Math, Engineering and Science Achievement program will visit the bus as part of an on-campus engineering program. University students who worked on the learning exhibits also will be on hand during the visit to campus.
The bus is an educational delight for all ages, with six interactive learning stations that move, talk, ooze, wheeze, flash and otherwise respond to each visitor. The 40-foot mobile classroom, powered by natural gas, was launched in Denver this fall and will travel throughout the state, visiting schools, communities, businesses and organizations. More than 10,000 children and adults are expected to visit the bus each year.
The nonprofit Breathe Better Foundation developed the bus to show how asthma and allergies can be managed so that people with these afflictions can lead active, healthy lives. More than 67,000 children and 165,000 adults in Colorado suffer from asthma, and the prevalence of asthma in children has increased 72 percent over the past 10 years.
Fifteen mechanical engineering students, working under the supervision of engineering Professor Shelly Miller and Ball Aerospace engineer Robert Wootten, designed and built the learning stations in the retrofitted RTD bus.
The American Lung Association of Colorado also provided financial support and help with the learning stations and materials. Other major sponsors include Aetna, Aventis Pharmaceutical, GlaxoSmithKline and Schering/Key Pharmaceuticals.
For information about the Breathe Better Bus, or to schedule a visit to your school or workplace, call Robin Wilson at the Colorado Allergy and Asthma Centers, (720) 858-7600, extension 7412.
Learning Stations on the Breathe Better Bus
When you walk on the bus, the first thing you see is a set of healthy, pink lungs that breathe. This display also has plastic lungs that you can take apart and re-assemble to see how they work and a lighted screen that shows all the parts of the body involved in breathing. Each one lights up as you read about its role.
The second station teaches on video how to use inhalers and other asthma and allergy medications.
The third station features an interactive exhibit that simulates breathing by an asthmatic and then by a person with normal breathing. A large Tweetie Bird watches as each person makes balls inside a clear tube rise and fall with each breath. The zone that each person falls into is color-coded, with tips for that level.
Fourth on the tour is a rotating house with rooms showing items that can trigger allergies or asthma attacks, including dust, pets, cleaners, etc. A computer screen asks questions about each room, and when a correct answer is given a frog dances. An incorrect response draws a loud cough. This site also includes a telephone to talk into for tips.
The fifth station is all about air pollution. It features miniature autos, trucks, homes, snowmobiles, lawnmowers, SUVs and small cars on highways and hillsides. Their exhaust fumes light up in response to questions about pollution and ozone damage. The cow's tail lights up in response to a question about methane gas.
The final station shows what smoking does to human lungs and appearance. A special screen morphs each person's face into what it might look like after 20 years of smoking. The display includes a soft, squishy pit that simulates the feeling of tar that builds up in the lungs. It also has a video on smoking facts. The most impressive piece of this exhibit, however, is a pair of real lungs blackened from smoking, which is shocking when compared to the healthy lungs in the first exhibit on the bus.
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