Support the WKU Storm Chase Student Experience!

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Make a gift to help 8 students fulfill their dream of participating in this award-winning, nationally recognized capstone field course!

WKU Storm Chase: EF-2 tornado is southeast Colorado, 2010.

The WKU Storm Chase experience launched in 2010, as a way to provide students a chance-of-a-lifetime to practice forecasting some of the world’s most extreme and hazardous weather events. This capstone field course was recognized by the North American Association of Summer Sessions (NAASS) with a “Creative and Innovation” Award for unique summer programs and nominated by the University Professional and Continuing Education Association for the Southern Region Program of Excellence Award for improving the quality of teaching and learning.

WKU Storm Chase: Tornado-warned storm in southwest Kansas, 2016.
WKU Storm Chase: Collage of a portion of the tornadoes documented 2010-2016.

Eight students who are interested in professional forecasting, emergency management, and research are selected among a competitive pool of applicants to travel the Great Plains for two weeks in search of the nation’s most severe storms. The group travels more than 7,000 miles each trip, taking up residence in 28 hotel rooms during the two-week adventure. Considering the travel portion (vehicle rental, gas, tolls, hotels, and food), along with mobile internet and other data/equipment costs, each student averages $1,000 in total travel costs, in addition to tuition.

WKU Storm Chase has traveled across 19 states since 2010.

The goal of this campaign is to raise $1,000 per student with a total campaign goal of $8,000 to alleviate the burden of travel costs so each student can focus on tuition only. 

Students participating in this class benefit from:

  • developing advanced skill sets in forecasting dangerous weather conditions
  • improved presentation and oral communication skills
  • developing leadership and critical teamwork skills
  • being challenged to make tough decisions that best benefit the team
  • learning to maintain a positive attitude despite outcomes from expectations
WKU Storm Chase: the first of many tornadoes on this day in southwest Kansas, 2016.

By supporting this campaign, you are:

  • reducing the burden of student debt
  • promoting unique and important learning experiences outside of the classroom
  • helping students to improve professional skills necessary for employment
WKU Storm Chase: Student verifying & documenting forecast outcomes in central Oklahoma, 2012.

Students testimonials from previous years:

  • “The WKU Storm Chase course helped foster severe weather forecasting skills paramount to
    resource protection of United States Air Force assets” –Nathaniel Shearer, U.S. Air Force
  • “The WKU Storm Chase gave me the real life experience to forecast
    during high stress situations, which has further prepared me to make the
    needed decisions during similar situations within the Emergency
    Management profession.” –Melissa Moore, Warren County Emergency Management
  • “The WKU Storm Chase helped me make decisions in tight situations and also looks damn good on my resume and I now have a sweet job in emergency environmental restoration and consulting.” –Ilea Schneider, Environmental Consultant at First Response Environmental Group
  • “Seeing the textbooks come to life!” –Michael Flanigan, Oldham County Police
  • “The WKU Storm Chase gave me increased confidence in my abilities as a forecaster where I had very little before, especially in severe situations.” –Isaac Bowers, WKU Meteorology Senior
  • “I am not an alum of the chase but as an outsider looking in, I can say that the students who participate in the WKU Storm Chase benefit from a life-changing experience, and the storm chase program itself is a shining example of the level of engagement and excellence that is the WKU Meteorology program.” –Dr. Peggy Gripshover, WKU Geography & Geology
  • “The meteorology summer field course at WKU taught a lot more than what a picture looks like in a book or on a PowerPoint. Being an operational meteorologist for over 5 years now, the main thing you need is real hands on experience. This course brought a considerable amount of severe weather forecasting challenges and experiences during the 2 week period for everyone in the program. Through these challenges, I gained and improved on my forecast skill set just as much, if not even more so than a full semester class. Skills learned in the course still guide me in forecast decisions on many occasions in my real-world job at the National Weather Service.  In addition, this experience also introduced the group to many different parts of the country and regional cultural values that differ from those in everyday Kentucky life. However, my most intriguing story about the course was that I had a job interview during the course and telling my current employer about the course ended up being a plus in getting my current position.” –Mitchell Gaines, National Weather Service-Mount Holly Meteorologist/Forecaster, New Jersey
WKU Storm Chase: Students capturing scenes from a severe storm in eastern Colorado, 2015.

For more about previous WKU Storm Chase trips, please visit the WKU News Storm Chase Archive and WKU Storm Chase on Twitter.

  • Is this basically just a wild storm chase like the movies and shows on tv?

-Not at all. The purpose of the trip is purely instructional with an element of basic applied research. Despite the obvious nature of this class, we strive to stay within viewing distance of severe storms, but safely away from crowded roads and any destruction that may occur. Safety is our #1 priority, followed next by a comfortable learning environment that is often away from the main clusters of storm chasers that often reside much closer to the storm. 

WKU Storm Chase: Students learning about circulation features during this EF-3 tornado in central Kansas, 2013.
  • What are the dates of the 2017 WKU Storm Chase?

-We will leave the week of May 15th. The day we leave depends on the forecast; if the severe weather pattern is quiet, we will wait a few days until things become more active. Once we leave, we will return 2 weeks later.

  • What is a typical day like for the WKU Storm Chasers?

Students wake up fairly early (6:00-7:00a) and start analyzing a variety of complex weather data. One student is assignment to present the final analyzed data to the group, where we can hook a laptop to a tv for a big monitor and have a collective forecast discussion. Once the group agrees on a target, we immediately start driving toward that target, sometimes hundreds of miles away. Along the way, we grab a quick lunch and keep analyzing weather data. By the afternoon, we are often tracking severe storms until dark (usually around 9:30p). Once it’s dark, we pull over and eat our leftovers from lunch or find a place to buy dinner, conduct a quick forecast for the next day, and search for hotels in that direction. Once we fall asleep, we do it all over again, for two weeks in a row!

  • How far do you travel each day or each trip?

We have traveled more than 8,000 miles on a few trips, which is an average of around 570+ miles a day. That’s like driving from WKU to New Orleans on one day, then driving back to WKU the next day, and repeating that process for two weeks! Otherwise, it’s similar to driving from WKU to Key West, FL, then to the northern reaches of Maine, on over to the northern tip of Minnesota, to northwest Washington, down to southern California, and return back to WKU (see below) …all for storms, but it’s worth it!


 

WKU Storm Chase: Average total driving distance mapped across the U.S. for perspective.
WKU Storm Chase: Student-created map showing our route during the 2013 trip.
  • What equipment do you use?

-For forecasting, we mainly use mobile internet services from ATT, Sprint, and Verizon with laptops and tablets (iPad, Surface, etc.). For documentation, we use a combination of high-end digital SLR and 4K video cameras, GoPro cameras, and personal phones. For data and documentation archiving, we use external hard drives. Smaller equipment needs include, mounts for laptops, USB battery boxes for personal devices, and data subscriptions for things like real-time lightning.

  • How do students benefit from the WKU Storm Chase experience?

Many of our students move on to become professional forecasters. Employers often ask, “Have you had any real-time forecast experience beyond a typical classroom?” The WKU Storm Chase experience allows our students to answer that question confidently, yes. As a result, the WKU Storm Chase experience has proven to help our students acquire forecasting positions right out of college. Notwithstanding, students who participate in this class also return with sharpened skill sets in decision-making, teamwork, data analysis, written and oral communication, and traveling. In short, the WKU Storm Chase experience includes many benefits even beyond meteorology.

  • Is there a way to follow along with the WKU Storm Chase?

-Yes! We provide multiple updates throughout each day on our WKU Storm Chase Twitter page with our forecast thoughts, locations and bearings, and images from any severe storm event as it is unfolding. Please follow us!


 

WKU Sto☈m Chase☈s | @wkustormchase
  • What do you do when there are not any storms to chase?

-Rarely are we able to track storms every single day for two weeks. During the “off days”, we often take that opportunity to forecast for the next round of severe weather events and travel toward that general area. With any time permitted, we try to visit and take in any local physical or cultural geography and geology to expand our educational reach beyond meteorology. In the past, we have visited the Rockies in Colorado, Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, the Badlands in South Dakota, the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial in Oklahoma, Capulin Volcano in New Mexico, among many others. We have also visited and toured numerous universities.

WKU Storm Chase: Visit to the Texas Tech Wind Research Facility, 2013.
  • What happens when you return back to WKU?

-Lots of things! The first thing we do is organize and prepare an archival framework for all of the data and documentation we collected during the trip. Next, we debrief the learning outcomes and start outlining some basic research questions that stem from some of the more interesting events we encountered. Then we focus on setting up research case studies for students to work on the following school year. We also spend time presenting our experiences and findings to various press and other outlets.

WKU Storm Chase: Student presenting storm chase research at the WKU Student Research Conference, 2015.

Spread the word!

  • Cheryl L. Stevens "I am so happy to support a real world experience second to none. Have a great time and be careful!"
  • Chris Reece "Please have a great time, and take plenty of pictures. I won't be there, but I look forward to the stories when you all return! "
  • Shane Holinde "There's no better way to learn meteorology than actually BEING OUT in it! Happy chasing, all! "
  • Mitchell Gaines "Best wishes for a great trip this year!"
  • Brian Goode- WAVE TV "Always happy to help out my fellow Toppers! Be safe and I hope you experience some amazing structures to year!"
  • "I hope this year is amazing!! Don't ever let a lack of funding prevent you from going after excellence. "
  • "Good luck to all of you! "
  • Alex Sizemore "Hey listen, enjoy the trip, and enjoy the awesome things the atmosphere can do. Do your best to have fun and take in as much of the experience as you can, the learning will come automatically then. You will never forget this trip as a WKU Meteorology student, as I will never forget my experience in 2015. Chase your dreams!"
  • TJ Malone "I had the time of my life on this trip back in 2010. Good luck, stay safe, and enjoy!"
  • Colton Lindsey "Good luck this summer! Watch out for those dandelions (cc Will Paschall)."
  • Peggy Gripshover "Have fun while you are learning up a storm!"
  • Marc Archambault "Way back in college, my own engaged learning experience transformed my life. Reach for the sky, Stormchasers!"
  • Mallory Schnell "I wish I could go back and do it all again! Best of luck this summer -- enjoy every minute! "
  • Brittney Whitehead "This class was the highlight of my college career! I'm so happy to see it continue year after year. Best of luck this Summer!"
  • Wendy DeCroix "Can't wait to follow along on your adventures - enjoy this experience!"
  • Jenny Wells Pyle "Wish you the best--enjoy your adventure! "
  • Heather McWhorter "Enjoy your trip!"
  • Adriana Bitoun "Wish you lots of success¡"
  • Offer Update #2: Support the WKU Storm Chase Student Experience!

    Did you know?

    The most money WKU Storm Chase students have raised was $1,480 in 2015. These funds were collected without crowdsourcing and provided many meals for the students on the road. Let’s takes advantage of Spirit Funder and smash that record to help cover more than food costs so the students don’t have to!

  • Offer Update #1: Support the WKU Storm Chase Student Experience!

    Almost a week into the campaign and I am so grateful for those who have collectively helped raise nearly $180 per student! 3 weeks left so please help spread the word to any and all others who would also like to be a part of helping students save money for unique education experiences such as this.

    -Josh Durkee (Director of the WKU Storm Chase)

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Giving Levels

EF-0

f3 Backers
$5.00 Donation

One EF-0 donation would provide a $5 footlong at Subway for one student for one day.

EF-1

f9 Backers
$25.00 Donation

One EF-1 donation would provide meals for one student for one day.

EF-2

f7 Backers
$100.00 Donation

One EF-2 donation would provide one hotel room for 4 students for one night.

EF-3

d1 Backers
$300.00 Donation

One EF-3 donation would provide gas for one day, and 2 hotel rooms for all 8 students for one night.

One EF-3 donation would also provide all meal costs for one student for the entire trip.

EF-4

d0 Backers
$500.00 Donation

One EF-4 donation would provide half of one student’s total travel costs.

EF-5

d0 Backers
$1,000.00 Donation

One EF-5 donation would sponsor one student’s total travel costs!

One EF-5 donation would also provide 10 hotel rooms, or 75% of the vehicle rental cost ($1,324).