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Abstract -- Networked Ocean Science Research and Education, Monterey Bay California Users Track
U6: Community Networking

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Networked Ocean Science Research and Education, Monterey Bay California

Brutzman, Don ( brutzman@nps.navy.mil)

Abstract

A regional network has been constructed to connect K-12 schools, colleges and universities in two California counties adjacent to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The network provides researchers, educators and students information access via text, hypertext, multimedia, audio and video. This project is an exciting broad-based collaboration which teams education, science, business and government in an effort to fundamentally improve our schools by connecting teaching with ocean-related research. Our network design approach provides individuals access to any type of live or archived media using a variety of bandwidth rates.

The regional network is the backbone for multiple educational initiatives and research projects. Organization and collaboration are loosely coupled under the local Initiative for Information Infrastructure and Linkage Applications (I3LA) so that various research efforts are complementary and can leverage other successes. Network bandwidth services are provided by Pacific Bell California Research and Education Network (CalREN) grants. Equipment has been provided independently by member institutions with an emphasis on using workstations or personal computers capable of audio, video and hypermedia as a baseline common denominator. Education exemplars include the live exploration of Monterey Canyon using deep remotely-operated vehicle, a "virtual canyon" science archive, a "virtual telescope" using astronomical data collected by the Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy, and a "watershed" project which explores the ecological relationships between agriculture, estuaries, cities and Monterey Bay.

Three tiers of network service connect Monterey Bay I3LA sites. Tier I ATM-level sites are producers and consumers of multiple very high-bandwidth information streams such as video, audio, 3D real-time computer graphics, robot telemetry and environmental datasets. Tier II sites are magnet sites such as County Offices of Education with moderately high bandwidth (Frame Relay), serving as example testbeds and training centers. Tier III sites are schools and libraries with lower bandwidth (Frame Relay and ISDN) adequate to provide student users with interactive information access and a single audio/video teleconference. Use of freely available videoconferencing and hypermedia software applications (e.g. tools for the Multicast Backbone and the World-Wide Web) has provided an immediate and well-understood path for complete connectivity to a wide variety of existing information sources.

We have followed the Internet model in order to include all types of media as well as all types of people. We did NOT propose any brand new technical or engineering study because open solutions already exist. The intellectual forces and market forces driving the Internet now have an irresistible momentum. Software tools freely available on the network are often superior to commercial tools due to active research communities, rapid feedback correction, zero dollar cost, and portability over most hardware/operating system architectures. We want students and the public able to interact with scientists, educators and each other to maximize learning and the discovery process.

If we look from one end to the other at the overall problem of connecting live science to students, we find that this group is working to put all of the pieces in place. We have science, scientists and educators working on the shared natural resource of Monterey Bay in a variety of disciplines. We have bandwidth from grants to enable interactive transfer rates. We have locations where students and public can be best served by connecting to these resources. We have a coherent model based on the Internet that has already solved the software and hardware problems associated with wide-area multimedia distribution. We have a sensible vision which is putting all of these pieces together in a dynamic and exciting way. Our planned graduation exercise is an International Conference on the Environment and Education in June 1996. We invite others to collaborate with these compelling efforts and take advantage of our "lessons learned."