Participant Selection

Starting in 2010, a total of 103 subjects were recruited from the Portland Metro Area; 63 of these subjects were asthma patients and 40 were healthy (non-asthmatic) control subjects. All subjects were above the age of 21 years. The forty healthy control subjects lived in environments that either met or exceeded the EPA’s IAQ standards.

Participant PEF Rate Testing

The purpose and correct manner of performing the test were explained to the subjects. They were instructed that once they were able to perform the test correctly, to make a maximum effort for three tests each morning in the standing position (recorded to the nearest five l/min). The subjects were instructed to collect three PEF rate readings every morning for seven days, before the consumption of any food, water, or medication.

The methods were HIPPA compliant. There was no primary contact with the subjects. The PEF data was recorded with an online, anonymous form (randomly assigned a number for each subject for identification) and the air quality data was gathered over the internet (through AirAdvice servers). The results were recorded, analyzed, and compared to the levels of a non-asthmatic person of the same gender, age, and height. Normalization of the PEF data was performed using the regression model provided by Nunn (1989).

(Note: To obtain disposable PEF monitors I had to approach various businesses and present my project to their administration and the research labs. After they were confident that my research was helpful to society and the treatment of asthma, they were willing to donate the PEF monitors I needed for each subject).

 Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Sampling

The monitor was set up in a location where the subject spent the most amount of time (usually the subject's bedroom and office) using the HomeAdvice™ Wireless System Placement Instructions. The IAQ monitor was left to gather and upload readings for 2 days, one day in the subject’s home and one day in the subject’s workplace. A detailed log was kept of any sources that might have influenced the IAQ data during those days. The procedures for Air Quality Sampling were repeated for each test subject’s home.

(Note: For the air quality monitors, I contacted a local business called Air Advice and presented my research project to them. They were very interested in what I was doing and loaned me the monitors for an extended period of time until all my data collection was over. They also let me tour their calibration lab and see how the monitors were calibrated to NIST standard in a lab setting.)

Statistical Analysis

The data was analyzed for an inverse correlation between the air particulates and pulmonary function in the subject’s homes and lungs using Excel, Polymath and Maple v.12 software. The numbers collected during the experiment were statistically analyzed and presented maintaining anonymity in all raw data. The IAQ data were compared with acceptable EPA levels while the PEF data were compared to readings of a non-asthmatic person of the same age, gender, and height. 

Variables Tested and Controlled:

Materials Used:

Phase 1 Methods Flow Chart:

The flow chart above depicts scientific and HIPPA compliant methods to study the relationship between air pollutants and the PEF rate.


Phase 2 Methods Flow Chart:

The flow chart above illustrates that the Shah Non Linear Regression Model modifies Nunn's 1989 model by uniquely incorporating the PM10 and TVOC concentration levels in the subject's environment. Equations 3 and 4 and the statistical analysis described above (including Tables 1 & 2) are described in Step 7.



Design and execute an experiment that tests your hypothesis. Include descriptions of the materials, equipment, and methods/techniques you used. Explain the variables and how they will be controlled, manipulated and measured. Also detail any key steps to avoid errors, risks and safety.

Judges' Tip

Excellent students will demonstrate that they have used good experimental techniques and describe their experiment clearly and in detail (500 words maximum).