October 31, 2008

October LIVE Activities Include Experiments with Off-Shore ROV, Rural Science Class, and SDSC Building Dedication

By Kimberly Mann Bruch

The past few weeks have been busy for the HPWREN LIVE and NPS StSS teams. The applied research efforts encompassed tests involving an off-shore ROV, an experiment at a rural mountain school, and LIVE demonstrations at the San Diego Supercomputer Center's New Building Dedication.

The three activities include Jim Hale launching the ROV into the kelp forest off Point Loma (left), SDSC Director Fran Berman in a LIVE session with Pablo Bryant at SMER (top), and a LIVE test with the Mountain Empire Middle School (right).

HPWREN and StSS Teams with Mountain Empire Middle School for LIVE Activities

On Friday, October 10, Kim Bruch and Hans-Werner Braun worked with Mountain Empire Middle School Science Teacher Roger Wynn to test LIVE technology between his classroom and the HPWREN headquarters in Ramona. During the LIVE test between the Mountain Empire classroom and Hans-Werner's Ramona office, the eighth grade students were studying solar energy and constructed a solar oven,

While Hans-Werner was using a PC equipped with an external web camera and wireless headset, Roger Wynn was using a Mac equipped with built-in microphone, camera, and speakers.

Science Teacher Roger Wynn holds a Mac laptop running Skype, with Hans-Werner Braun on the other end, while students conduct their solar oven experiment outside the Mountain Empire Middle School. "The quality of the video and audio coming from the rural school was very good," says Hans-Werner. "The Mac's built-in camera appeared to be transmitting at a higher resolution than I was used to for Skype on a PC, which provided for a very good LIVE session."

Plans are now underway for two LIVE activities at the school. One between the science classroom and the intertidal area at the NPS Cabrillo National Monument will focus on terracing ocean waves, while another will be between the class and the CalFire Ramona Air Attack Base and feature the use of airplanes and how they are being utilized for firefighting activities.

ROV Experiment at Cabrillo Achieves Success!

On Monday, October 13, the HPWREN and StSS teams continued LIVE experiments from a boat motoring near the kelp bed off the shore of Cabrillo (Point Loma) and Kim Bruch's office located in central San Diego. Specifically, Jim Hale, Hans-Werner Braun, and Susan Teel conducted a test to transmit real-time underwater video between a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) equipped with a video camera and Kim's office. Simultaneously, audio was transmitted from the deck of the boat. Both video and audio was utilizing Skype, while communicating from PCs across the water with wireless access points at the tidepools.

"Jim assembled, developed, and tested a system capable of transmitting real-time video from a greater distance offshore to the on-shore station," explained Susan. "This test was also successful and will provide opportunities for the team to expand the locations where LIVE programs are conducted. Biscayne National Park will be able to use the results of today's test to implement a system which employs an ROV to explore the diversity and underwater beauty of coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and mangrove root systems in Florida."

"The Submerged Resources Program, a national program within the National Park Service, is closely following the results of these experiments in anticipation that they can use similar equipment at multiple locations across the country. Some examples of park locations with underwater resources of interest include; Lake Mead, Hawaiian Islands, Dry Tortugas Florida, and the channel Islands, CA," she continued.

SDSC Building Dedication Demonstrations Include Cabrillo, Santa Margarita, and Palomar Observatory LIVE Activities

On Tuesday, October 14, the new San Diego Supercomputer Center building wing was unveiled to campus faculty, staff, students, and beyond. The building dedication ceremony was followed by demonstrations of research housed at the center - including HPWREN LIVE and StSS activities. After a LIVE visit led by Cabrillo National Monument's Chief of Natural Resources Management and Science Andrea Compton, Palomar Observatory Public Affairs Officer Scott Kardel discussed HPWREN-connected telescopes and recent discoveries made possible by the high-speed network. Next, San Diego State University Research Technologist Pablo Bryant took the building dedication participants on a LIVE tour of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve - focusing on the river gorge and demonstrating the use of real-time remote sensors.

"HPWREN provides a valuable tool for many of Palomar Observatory's astronomers who can collect their data at Palomar while they are in their distant office or kitchen," said Scott Kardel. "It is only natural that we in turn take the fruits of that research and provide live activities, such as this one, to other groups that cannot visit Palomar. Just like the astronomers, they can experience the observatory from afar in real-time."

Attendees at the San Diego Supercomputer Center Building Dedication participate in a real-time conversation with National Park Service Chief of Natural Resources Management and Science Andrea Compton at the Cabrillo National Monument's intertidal area.

"This event allowed us to test and better understand the flow of ongoing LIVE activities between remote science sites and education communities," says Kim Bruch, who works on both the HPWREN and StSS projects at SDSC. "We are still working on ways to improve these interactive activities and welcome feedback from participants."

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