AR Sandbox makes topographic maps fun and interactive while teaching earth sciences

January 14, 2019

The Augmented Reality (AR) Sandbox allows students and the public to interact with a miniature landscape, sculpting mountains, valleys, rivers and even volcanoes, with off the shelf readily available parts.

Users can create topography models by shaping real sand, which is then augmented in real time by an elevation color map, topographic contour lines, and simulated water.

The system teaches geographic, geologic, and hydrologic concepts such as how to read a topo map, the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees and more. Topographic maps are crucial tools used by geologists, geographers, land and floodplain managers, planners and adventurous hikers.

The AR Sandbox prototype was developed at the Keck Center for Active Visualization in Earth Science (KeckCAVES) at the University of California (UC), Davis), and was initially launched in museum settings in 2012.

According to EOS.org, the AR Sandbox prototype became an interactive public exhibit for science education as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF)–funded project called LakeViz3D. This collaboration of scientists, science educators, evaluators, museum professionals, and media developers created 3-D visualizations to help improve public understanding and stewardship of freshwater ecosystems.

Also, land management and planning agencies can test environmental change scenarios in an AR Sandbox to inform decisions related to natural disaster planning. And it’s a cool, fun way to educate kids and the public about earth sciences as shown in below video…

The 3-D software used to create the AR Sandbox is open source and freely available online, together with the sandbox blueprints, a facilitator’s guide (support and ideas for teaching with the sandbox), and a public forum for help troubleshooting sandbox issues or to post questions and suggestions.

An AR Sandbox requires the following hardware components:

  • A computer with a high-end graphics card running Linux.
  • A Microsoft Kinect 3D camera.  
  • A digital video projector with a digital video interface, such as HDMI, DVI, or DisplayPort.
  • A sandbox with a way to mount the Kinect camera and projector above sandbox.
  • Sand.

UC Davis provides detailed information, videos and forum support on what schools, organizations and others need to build your own AR Sandbox:

Currently there are over 150 exhibits around the world so use this interactive map to see if there is an AR Sandbox near you, and learn more at https://arsandbox.ucdavis.edu/.

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CoCoRaHS ~ because every drop counts! (Citizens and schools can help measure precipitation)

December 4, 2017

CoCoRaHS (pronounced KO-ko-rozz) is an acronym for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network.

CoCoRaHS is a unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are major sponsors of CoCoRaHS. Other organizations have contributed either financially, and/or with supplies and equipment.

CoCoRaHS has over 20,000 volunteer observers in all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada and the Bahamas. Of the network’s 333 coordinators, 254 work closely with NOAA.

By using low-cost measurement tools, stressing training and education, and utilizing an interactive website and apps, the aim is to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education and research applications.

Why is there so much interest in rain, hail and snow?

Precipitation is essential for life. It varies greatly with topography, storm type and season. It really is true  that  it  may  pour  on  one  side  of  the  street and be dry on the other. A portion of a field may be pounded by hail while others nearby receive no damage. Snowfall may pile up in one neighborhood and only dust another. Rain, hail and snow are fairly easy to measure, and the data collected are very important.

Who uses CoCoRaHS?

CoCoRaHS is used by a wide variety of organizations and individuals. The National Weather Service, other meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, city utilities (water supply, water conservation, storm water), insurance adjusters, USDA, engineers, mosquito control, ranchers and farmers, outdoor & recreation interests, teachers, students, and neighbors in the community are just some examples of those who visit their Web site and use the data.

What does a volunteer observer do?

Each time a rain, hail or snow storm crosses your area, volunteers take measurements of precipitation from as many locations as possible. These precipitation reports are then recorded online at www.cocorahs.org or through CoCoRaHS’ app.

The data are then displayed and organized for many of their end users to analyze and apply to daily situations ranging from water resource analysis and severe storm warnings to neighbors comparing how much rain fell in their backyards.

It’s easy to join, takes only five minutes a day and is a fun way to learn about weather.

People of all ages can help. The only requirements are an enthusiasm for watching and reporting weather conditions and a desire to learn more about how weather can affect and impact our lives.

Complimentary training is provided to help you become an effective weather observer. Check out your state page for a list of current training sessions in your local area.  If none are taking place at the current time, CoCoRaHS has online and PDF Training Slideshows.

Can schools participate?

Absolutely! A great benefit of CoCoRaHS is that it provides real science activities for the classroom in public, private, and home schools. Over the last several years CoCoRaHS staff has worked with science teachers to develop a series of lesson plans and activities. These lesson plans are available for a variety of grade levels and are built around CoCoRaHS’s emphasis on measuring precipitation.

Watch and share below short CoCoRaHS for Schools video…

 

CoCoRaHS also has lesson plans and activities developed for the 4-H Program that are aligned with National Science Education Standards (NSES) for grades K-4, 5-8 and 9-12. Visit CoCoRaHS for Schools to learn how your school or program can join.

Help spread the word

Please take a moment to share this post and tell a friend or neighbor about CoCoRaHS exciting grassroots effort of citizens measuring precipitation in their own backyards. Again, it’s easy to join, takes only 5 minutes a day and your observations give scientists an ever clearer picture of where and how much precipitation falls throughout our communities.

Learn more about CoCoRaHS at www.cocorahs.org and follow them on their blog, Facebook and Twitter and get involved!


NASA video: A Display of Lights Above the Storm

October 13, 2017

Check out this cool video by NASA explaining Transient Luminous Events or basically flashes and glows called blue jets, red sprites and other TLEs that appear above storms.

Blue jets pulse from the tops of intense thunderstorms and reach up toward the edge of space. Red sprites are glows in the upper atmosphere, tied to the presence of large lightning flashes but not attached to the clouds themselves.

The ISS has afforded astronauts the opportunity to photograph a number of natural light shows produced at the tops of thunderstorms as seen in below video…

For more science from above the clouds visit www.nasa.gov/station and see more cool lightning posts here


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