Sequoyah Seniors Research Cognitive Difficulties due to Online School

The Social Innovation Program (SIP), a year-long program that all of Sequoyah’s high school students participate in, aims to educate students about social issues, teaching them to make change while they build real-world skills. When students enter their junior year, they get the opportunity to explore an issue of their choosing; they spend a full year researching it and finding ways to help address it. In their senior year, students have the choice to either continue their project or to work on something new.

For this piece, The Barefoot Times interviewed Seniors Theo Schmidt, Rory Martin, and Eamon Lee, who have decided to focus on studying excess carbon dioxide build-up in enclosed rooms and its effect on people’s cognitive abilities. Originally, the group was focusing on air pollution, but they decided to shift their focus in response to the move to virtual learning and widespread working from home.

Schmidt, Martin, and Lee hypothesize that because we are all cooped up in a corner of the same room throughout the day, we are most likely creating an irregular build up of carbon dioxide in the air from exhaling carbon dioxide. They want to test this hypothesis, and depending on their results, they want to determine whether breathing in this excess carbon dioxide affects individuals’ cognitive abilities. The latter would potentially influence how effectively students are able to engage in online school. Finally, they want to explore various ways that people can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in their rooms, among them adding indoor plants. Schmidt says “I’m not too sure what we will find out, but I think it’s a very interesting thing to study because I know a lot of people, including myself, have felt less productive while stuck in our rooms, so this could be a cause of it.”

At first, Schmidt, Martin, and Lee tried to find external studies or papers on the topic; unfortunately, they found very little, so they decided to conduct this experiment themselves. So far they have devised a plan for how to carry out the experiment, while one of the group members, Eamon Lee, has been working on creating a CO2 meter from scratch; the latter will allow them to measure the carbon dioxide produced in the experiment. Schmidt says they want to write as professional a paper as possible and are excited to present their findings. 

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