Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education
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Is Your Bus Exhausting? Stevens Institute of Technology


TEACHERS: Particulate Matter

Students will be able to:
  • make a particulate air monitoring card and use it to gather samples
  • describe the variable that will influence the amount of particles collected on the air monitoring cards


  • Particulate Cards:
    • clear wide packing tape
    • ruler
    • index cards - colored and white (1 for each student)
    • hole puncher
    • string
    • scotch tape
  • hands lens or dissecting microscope
  • Student Worksheet, pdf
  • Computers with Internet access (optional)


Particulates in the air can be a major health concern.Scientists use monitors to read the amount of particulates suspended in the air.They use this information in order to issue health alerts if needed.



  1. Obtain a Student Worksheet from your teacher. Find the outdoor location in which you would like to hang your monitoring card. Measure the length of string necessary to suspend the card.
  2. Back in the classroom, measure and cut a length of string.
  3. Obtain one colored and one white index card.
  4. Cut out a large square in the middle of the colored index card.
  5. Whole punch the center of the card and attach the length of string.
  6. On the front of the card, write your name, location, and dates of exposure.
  7. Cut strips of clear wide packing tape and place them on the card, so that the sticky side of the tape will show from the front of the card. Try not to touch the exposed sticky area.
  8. Place your card in the location you identified earlier.  Make sure that the card is hanging freely.
  9. Each day the card is exposed, obtain and record the average wind speed and direction for the day.
  10. After four days, collect the cards and return them to the classroom for analysis.
  11. Place a white index card behind the colored one to help see any particulates that may have been trapped by the tape.
  12. Use a hand lens or microscope to evaluate the particulates that are present, determining the approximate size and amount on the card.
  13. Sketch your results on the Student Worksheet and answer the questions.


Student worksheet.


Implementation Tips
Try to implement this activity during a period when there are not substantial rain showers expected.  Make sure the students place the cards in areas where rain will not easily wash away the particulates.  The longer the cards can remain exposed, the better.


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The Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education