A Metric Victory

14063042-smallWe’ve all heard the adage “think globally, but act locally”, but for all the lessons  presented to students in science classes, teachers sometimes fail to apply the same lessons in their everyday lives.

Such is not the case with Sally Mitchell, a chemistry teacher and ACS ChemClub advisor at East Syracuse – Minoa High School.  Earlier this month, as she was driving to Hancock International Airport in Syracuse, N.Y., she noticed a new electronic sign welcoming travelers to the area.  It showed the current date, time and the temperature.  But Mitchell was discouraged to see the temperature in Fahrenheit only.

Mitchell is an advocate for the metric system. As with most science teachers, the majority of measurements made during her class are in the metric system, which is used by scientists worldwide.

Photo: David Lassman, Syracuse.com

But Mitchell is not content to just teach her students the metric system. She wants to convert the entire United States to using it, instead of our traditional, but antiquated U.S. Customary System of weights and measures, which is used widely in consumer products and manufacturing.  This, despite a law passed in 1988, which made the metric system “the preferred system of weights and measures for U.S. trade and commerce”.

After seeing the new sign at the airport, Mitchell immediately called the mayor and the executive director for the airport.  She made her case to have the sign read in Celsius as well as Fahrenheit.

Happily, the authorities responded in a positive way.  The airport agreed to reprogram the sign, and when it is done, it will display both the Celsius and Fahrenheit degrees.

So while the U.S. may still be out of step globally when it comes to the metric system, at least one local action moved us a bit closer, which is very cool, no matter how you measure it.