Teaches Deaf Students
adjustments are made; the safety harness and tending line are
secured; the diver lowers himself into a hole cut through the
ice. The water is 28 degrees F, one degree above the temperature
at which salt water freezes. Another diver is already under the
ice, video camera in hand. On the ice, researchers prepare to
begin the experiment; one holds a cell phone, his back to the
wind. Class is in session.
Research divers from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC),
Newport, RI are working with the Army’s Cold Regions Research
and Engineering Lab (CRREL) in Lyme, NH to test a prototype radio
communications antenna that some day may accompany submarines
operating in the Arctic.
A teacher at the American School for the Deaf (ASD) in West Hartford,
CT listens over her cell phone to the NUWC engineer’s commentary.
She interprets his descriptions to her students as underwater
video images arrive real time via the Internet. For over an hour,
the students view the computer projector screen in their classroom
as the divers install and make adjustments to equipment, and while
scientific data is collected. A second camera enables them to
see the above ice activities as well. They ask questions through
the interpreter and watch as the engineer and diver respond.
What these ASD students were able to see was field engineering
as it happens, unedited. The NUWC and CRREL team worked for three
days on the salt water test facility, and with little additional
effort were able to provide a brief hour-long snapshot of research
underway to a group of college bound science students. Had we
not taken the time, this unique educational experience would have
It may be extremely difficult to bring a group of students to
a remote location not typically suited to a field trip environment,
as was the case at CRREL this past February. Yet, the ASD kids
were provided with the next best thing; a front row seat at a
computer screen, and the ability to interact with researchers
remotely and in real time.
As we at NUWC have shown, the Internet is readily available for
connecting scientific and technological activities from somewhat
remote locations directly into the classroom. While the equipment
we currently use is not readily suited for use in the field, we
are assembling a more reliable, portable system that will minimize
the operational logistics. We hope that the simplicity of the
final system will encourage other organizations to provide access
to one-of-a-kind educational outreach opportunities that would
otherwise be lost.
Manstan is a senior engineer at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.
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