Young man in front of a large monitor. He is pointing to a a dip on a large graph
Alex Scerba showing data from the LENSS sentor

Coding for a Dark Sky – A Summer with GLAS

The goal of the GLDS initiative is to raise awareness and educate the community about the hazards of light pollution. Putting tools to measure the darkness of the sky is the goal of Lakeshore Environment and Night Sky Sensor.

My name is Alex Scerba. I am a recent high school graduate working on the Lakeshore Environment and Night Sky Sensor (LENSS) project with GLAS (Geneva Lake Astrophysics and STEAM). LENSS is currently focused on creating a remotely-operated sky quality meter in support of the Geneva Lake Dark Sky (GLDS) Initiative. 

The goal of the GLDS initiative is to raise awareness and educate the community about the hazards of light pollution. To measure the current amount of light pollution and record changes over time, a sensor and data collection system was needed. Another goal was for the system to be less expensive than similar existing products and remotely operable. The LENSS team at GLAS set out to do just that, design a system for measuring light pollution that meets existing standards and present their findings to the community to raise awareness. 

As a member of the LENSS team, I implement software that sends, receives, and processes data as well as document parts of the project for later reference. 

I enjoy working on the “behind the scenes” portion of the project, so I have been thinking of and testing ways to deal with the collected data. For the sensor, I set up a data transfer software that sends the data out for processing. On the processing side, I am working on plans for a mapping program that will allow homeowners who are hosting one of our sensors on their property to see how their data compares to that of other sensors in the area. While working on the software is fun, I also work on a typically overlooked portion of a project: documentation.

One of the most challenging parts of any long term project is documenting every piece of hardware, software, process, and resource used along the way. Proper documentation ensures that the whole team is able to understand how parts of the project work so that nothing is a black box. This makes it easier for others to work on the project even when some team members are unavailable. As of now, I have documented each program that I have set up for the project as well as how to use and work on the sensor from home during the current pandemic. I am also helping to work on a system overview that will visually show how each part of the project will interact with each other.

Overall, I really enjoy working on this project because it has the potential to actually make a difference in the community, and I hope to continue contributing to the project well into the future. 

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