July 2, 2007

A Year in the Life of an HPWRENer

HPWREN technician and programmer James (Jim) Hale has been with the San Diego Supercomputer Center based team since 2002. First starting out as a volunteer (intrigued by the work conducted by his father Bud Hale on the project), Jim joined the team as a part-time electronics technician. During the past five years, Jim and HPWREN colleagues have worked alongside an array of collaborators ranging from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Cabrillo National Monument to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and San Diego Sheriff's Department.

"Before joining the HPWREN team, I worked as a network engineer and that was great. However, the experience that I have gained over the years with HPWREN have allowed me to expand my skills in both programming and on-site wireless deployments," says Jim. "I am really pleased to be a part of this team that has connected so many hard-to-reach science and education sites over the past five years."

Summer 2006
This time last year, Jim participated in working with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection on network connectivity and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) for the Horse Fire Incident Command Post. Specifically responsible for deployment planning and structural engineering, Jim also assists HPWREN PI Hans-Werner Braun with electrical and wireless network installations.

"Without Jim's diligence and endurance, these types of deployments would be impossible," says Hans-Werner Braun. "Jim is a real enabler in his follow-ups and follow-throughs that such activities require."

For more information about the HPWREN deployment during the Horse Fire, please refer to:

Fall 2006
December 2006 marked one of the first pilot Live Interactive Virtual Exploration (LIVE) activities coordinated by the HPWREN team and several collaborators. Jim's role with the Point Loma tidepools event included ensuring that radios and antennae were properly placed and configured prior to the activity. Then, Jim helped National Park Service Rangers assemble the underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) before deployment.

"This activity was really exciting as we'd never worked with an underwater ROV over the wireless network before," says Jim. "It was great to be a part of an event that outreached to school children throughout the country."

For more information about the December 2006 HPWREN LIVE activity at the Point Loma tidepools, please refer to:

Spring 2007
January 2007 activities included taking a trip via a firefighter helicopter to an HPWREN backbone node atop a remote San Diego County mountaintop. Jim's role in this particular mission included working at height on a microwave tower to troubleshoot the network link.

For additional photographs depicting this activity, please refer to:

In February, HPWREN Principal Investigator Hans-Werner Braun and Jim drove from San Diego to San Francisco to participate in the National Science Foundation's exhibit booth at the 2007 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting. The week-long exhibit showcased the HPWREN LIVE pilot program, which utilizes real-time cyberinfrastructure to enable virtual research and education activities at remote science sites.

Details regarding HPWREN's participation with the NSF exhibit at AAAS are available at:

Summer 2007
For the past few months, the HPWREN team has been working on a permanent high performance connection for the Cabrillo National Monument's tidepools. Jim's role as one of the network site designers proved challenging for this installation; he explains that "we wanted to make sure that we not only connected the tidepools, but did so in a non-invasive manner that doesn't disturb the sensitive flora and fauna in the area."

To accomplish this, the design entailed a solar-powered unit with back-up batteries, small antennae, and a wireless access point to allow National Park Service rangers to participate in LIVE activities at the tidepools. Two ninety-degree cameras, which point into Zones 1 and 3 of the intertidal area, are viewable in real-time at http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/cameras/.

Photographs depicting work at the tidepools site can be found at: http://archive.hpwren.ucsd.edu/Photos/20070601/.

Routine maintenance at the Mount Soledad HPWREN backbone relay site this summer included Jim checking connections of network interfaces as well as connections between routers and radios.

"This data network is basically a collection of routers on mountaintops with RF media as opposed to copper or fiber. Because of the environment, overall maintenance is more difficult because weather and terrain become obstacles not present in hard-wired networks," says Jim. "However, the benefit is the ability to extend to the hard-to-reach areas that aren't feasible via conventional network methods."

Clearly, neither the expansion nor the maintenance of the NSF-funded wireless network would be possible without the hard work of HPWREN team members like Jim.

-Kimberly Mann Bruch
San Diego Supercomputer Center, University of California - San Diego

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