UWF student gains hands-on experience in tornado chasing

University of West Florida | news@uwf.edu

With the words “storm chasing” and “tornadoes” in the same sentence, it is difficult not to conjure up images from “The Wizard of Oz” or “Twister,” complete with flying houses and cows.

“‘Twister’ is my favorite movie,” admitted Chelsea Lovrekovic as she began discussing her weeklong adventure with Extreme Chase Tours where she had the opportunity to study these funnels up close.

A mathematics senior at UWF, Lovrekovic incorporated this tour as part of her studies for her senior pro-seminar, which is an independent research project required by the UWF Department of Mathematics and Statistics to promote active learning. Her intention is to employ the statistical models used in storm chasing as the basis for her research while she explores an exciting real-life application of her studies.

The company leading her tour, Extreme Chase Tours, takes guests such as herself with it to drive into storms tracking tornadoes and collecting valuable data to utilize in later studies.

While on the tour, Lovrekovic had the opportunity to see two active tornadoes make ground contact as the team sped after numerous storms looking for signs of twister potential. One tornado tore apart a mobile home, leaving destruction in its wake as the group watched from a safe distance.

“It was so cool,” said Lovrekovic, “but there was some incredible devastation.”

After the storm chasing tour, she began to gather information and programs to use in furthering the methods she used on the tour for her pro-seminar.

“I’m going to have to do some research on my own,” said Lovrekovic, “but I was able to get enough information to see what I need to look at. Once I do it on my own in my pro-seminar, I will be able to understand the concepts even better.”

Though this was an exciting experience as well as a life-long dream of hers, storm chasing is not on her list of potential career choices. Her goal is to become a teacher and she hopes she can use this experience to inspire her students with the real-life applications that mathematics can offer.

“It could be a great hands-on way to draw interest from my students and show them that math is more than just punching numbers, it can be exciting, too.”

For more information on Extreme Chase Tours, visit extremechasetours.com. To read more about the UWF Department of Mathematics and Statistics Proseminar program, go to uwf.edu/mathstat/undergraduate/documents/ProseminarGuide.pdf.

By Kelly Dieckmann, University Marketing Communications

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