Project Will Allow Students to 'Fly' into Weather Fronts

Dec 01, 2009, 05:00 ET from Millersville University

MILLERSVILLE, Pa., Dec. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Imagine being able to fly inside weather fronts and jet streams, visualizing the atmosphere in ways that are not currently available, and in the process, learning things that would not have been apparent using conventional learning paradigms. Sound better than looking at weather images on a computer screen?

Three Millersville University of Pennsylvania researchers set out with the goal to develop a virtual experience that will allow meteorology students to go "inside" the map and explore the weather features using a guided instruction approach.

Dr. Gary Zoppetti, computer science, and Drs. Sepideh Yalda and Richard Clark, both from earth sciences, recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation Division of Information and Intelligent Systems-Advanced Learning Technologies Program (NSF-IIS-ALT) to develop a module that will provide a student with the ability to explore real-time data interactively at the controls of their personal virtual platform. The project is called "Geosciences Probe of Discovery."

"Working with a team of undergraduate students, we will collaborate on the development of software that implements an interactive, intuitive interface called the 'GEOpod,'" explained Clark. "The GEOpod will serve as the control interface that will allow students to probe a 3D immersion world of authentic geophysical data and use virtual devices to collect data and record observations, while guided by an instructional approach that can be customized for individual learners," added Zoppetti.

The researchers envision that this will lead to enhanced learning and discovery by allowing students to become part of the exploration process. This technology has applications for other fields as well. An example, according to Yalda, "might be navigating around a 3-D rendering of the human brain, or flying deep below the surface of the Earth exploring tectonic plates."

The GEOpod team plans to build and release successively more sophisticated and visually enticing beta-versions of the GEOpod, culminating with the global release of a plug-in that can be installed with an existing open-source application called the Integrated Data Viewer (IDV), developed by software engineers at the Unidata Program Center in Boulder, Colo. IDV is currently being used for 2-D and 3-D visualization of the atmosphere by thousands of students at the 100-plus U.S. universities that offer programs in atmospheric and related sciences, and is making inroads at universities and operational meteorology centers throughout the world.

SOURCE Millersville University