Education & Training

Shaping a career in a week

June 9, 2017 | When Christina Speciale was majoring in meteorology at Rutgers University, she knew she wanted to pursue a career in some aspect of the atmospheric sciences. But she wasn't sure what to focus on until she attended the Undergraduate Leadership Workshop (ULW) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the summer before her senior year.At the weeklong event in 2010, she enjoyed making connections with meteorology students from other schools and hearing talks by leading NCAR scientists. Something in particular clicked when she saw a presentation by NCAR's Julie Demuth, a social scientist who does research into better communicating the uncertainty of weather forecasts to the public."That's a huge problem in our field," said Speciale, now a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y. "NCAR planted the seed for me on this issue, and to this day it's a big research interest of mine."Christina Speciale in front of the National Weather Service headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Photo courtesy Christina Speciale.)Speciale is one of about 270 undergraduates from across the country who have attended the ULW since its inception in 2002. Every year, the workshop connects students in the atmospheric and related sciences with scientists, engineers, educators, and top managers, exposing them to research areas and career options while training them in leadership and professional skills.So can a one-week workshop really make a difference to aspiring scientists? The answer is yes, according to a new study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.A team of higher education experts with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages NCAR on behalf of the National Science Foundation, conducted an anonymous survey of past participants to see if the weeklong workshop had been helpful. The participants overwhelmingly answered that it had."Even if you don't do a research internship, a one-week program can provide career awareness and increased engagement in science, along with a sense of belonging and long-term professional support," said Valerie Sloan, a higher education specialist at UCAR and lead author of the study. "It can be enormously helpful to a student embarking on a career in the sciences."Filling a gapNCAR launched the ULW program to help undergraduate students learn more about opportunities in the fields of atmospheric science and engineering. Studies have shown that many undergraduates don't have a full picture of career options, and not every student can land an internship or devote an entire summer to one in order to gain that knowledge.To fill this gap, the ULW introduces about 20 students, most of them juniors, to various types of research at NCAR, as well as to options for graduate schools and careers in weather and climate. The workshop includes sessions on leadership skills and professional development, such as working in teams and communicating clearly. The participants then share the information with other atmospheric science students at their schools.A total of 269 students from more than 70 universities have taken part.To assess the impact of the workshop on student careers and better understand which program elements have been most helpful, Sloan and her co-authors designed an online survey and brought together focus groups of former students.The survey, which had a response rate of 61 percent of those students for whom contact information was available, showed that the workshop had made a substantial impact on the participants. Some 98 percent of the survey respondents saw the program as a valuable or very valuable experience. In addition, 90 percent said the workshop "provided an experience that helped to prepare me professionally," 84 percent said it "increased my confidence in my ability to pursue my career," and 71 percent said it helped them "decide to go on to graduate school."At least 75 percent have jobs in the atmospheric sciences, working in academia, government agencies, or private and nonprofit organizations. Several alumni are weather forecasters. One reported working as a pilot in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Corps, and another as a bathymetric scientist in the Naval Oceanographic Office.The Undergraduate Leadership Workshop introduces students to various aspects of the atmospheric sciences, including the role of research aircraft such as the NSF/NCAR C-130. (©UCAR. Photo by Valerie Sloan. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.) For some alumni, one of the most important aspects of the program is building confidence. "For the first time since high school, I am not afraid of my future," said one recent workshop participant after hearing from several professionals about their often-indirect career paths.UCAR's Tim Barnes, an educational specialist who helped launch the workshop in 2002 and co-authored the new paper, said it has been gratifying to see how much it's helped aspiring scientists."One of the important aspects that we focus on is providing a safe space for the students to be vulnerable and ask questions – not just specific questions about science, but life questions as well," he said. "I think that's made a big difference. It's helped students think more about some major issues, like what's important to them and how they want their careers to unfold."The paper concludes that a short workshop, while not as enriching as a summer internship that offers hands-on research, can nonetheless confer significant benefits. The workshops are particularly helpful if they include career information, conversations with scientists, team-building activities, and communication and leadership activities, the authors found."Based on these findings, we hope that workshops of this scale may be considered at other research centers or in atmospheric science programs so that more students can benefit from this type of training and support," the paper concludes.Original alumnusThe results come as no surprise to an alumnus of the first workshop in 2002. Joel Gratz applied to the workshop because, even after meteorology internships at a TV station and a research lab, he wanted to get a view of the entire spectrum of job opportunities in the atmospheric sciences. The experience introduced him to new directions in the field as well as helping him weed out options that did not excite him.Gratz now runs his own weather company, OpenSnow.com, that issues weather forecasts and powder alerts for skiers and others looking for information about snow conditions across the northern hemisphere. He says the ULW and the American Meteorological Society's annual student conference are the two experiences, outside of the classroom, that were most useful and motivational during his undergraduate and graduate years."I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for these experiences," he said. "The ULW solidified my feeling that meteorology was the career for me while also identifying ways that I could impact the science."About the articleTitle: Long term Impacts of a Career Development Workshop for UndergraduatesAuthors: Valerie Sloan, Rebecca Haacker, Tim Barnes, and Carolyn BrinkworthJournal: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, DOI: 10.1175/BAMS-D-15-00214.1WriterDavid Hosansky, Manager of Media Relations 

Raising forecasting skills in Africa and beyond

May 9, 2017 | Africa is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather, affecting food and water security and public health. In 2016 alone, Nigeria and South Africa suffered droughts, and Ethiopia's highlands were battered by floods.But African meteorologists have been hindered by a relative dearth of weather observing stations and a lack of access to good forecast tools and training.That's where the African Satellite Meteorology Education & Training Project, or ASMET, comes in. For 20 years ASMET, co-managed by the University Corporation of Atmospheric Research's COMET program, has helped fill the gaps by providing training to African forecasters on how to use satellite data to improve weather forecasts.Part of the African Satellite Meteorology Education & Training Project team that met in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2013. (Left to right) Ignatius Gitonga Gichoni, Kenya Meteorological Department; an unidentified visitor; Abdoulaye Ouerdraogo, African School of Meteorology and Civil Aviation, Niger; Vesa Nietosvaara, EUMETSAT ASMET project manager; Hama Hamidou, EAMAC, Niger; Jannie Stander, South African Weather Service; Joseph Kagenyi, KMD; Lee-ann Simpson, SAWS; and Marianne Weingroff, COMET ASMET project manager. (Photo courtesy Kenya Meteorological Department.)The project is funded by EUMETSAT (the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites), which provides the equipment to download satellite data and the data itself to African meteorological services. EUMETSAT is an intergovernmental organization of 30 European countries."Radar and observations are very limited in Africa, so the main way that forecasters get weather information is through satellite imagery. ASMET develops training on how to use it," said Marianne Weingroff, an instructional designer and COMET's project manager on the international ASMET team."The overall goal of ASMET is to reduce the impact of weather-related disasters in Africa," added Vesa Nietosvaara, ASMET project manager with EUMETSAT.The project began in 1997 when COMET conducted a nine-month training program on the instructional design process at UCAR for four meteorology instructors from the regional meteorological training centers in Kenya and Niger. They produced the first ASMET lessons and have played an instrumental role in bringing new people onto the project as it has expanded to include the weather services in South Africa and Morocco. The team selects topics of regional significance and develops the lessons, many of which are case studies.Since its inception, the ASMET team has produced 20 self-paced learning lessons, offered online and on CDs, in English and French. The lessons have been viewed in 8,100 user sessions in 164 countries, indicating an interest far beyond Africa.Building a better forecastThe lessons focus on satellite image interpretation.  It can be difficult, for example, to distinguish cloud types, and yet such interpretations can be critical in predicting storms. Beyond analyzing satellite images for general weather forecasting, the lessons cover the forecasting of high-impact events such as tropical cyclones, drought, floods, and even aviation weather.ASMET data, such as this rainfall distribution map, recently helped Kenyan forecasters prepare for a drought. (@COMET Standard Terms of Use.)"There were concerns about aviation forecasts in Africa, so several years ago we created a series of case studies to teach forecasters how to improve them by using satellite imagery to predict different types of aviation weather, such as fog and clear air turbulence," Weingroff said.Ignatius Gitonga Gichoni, an ASMET team member with the Kenya Meteorological Service, said ASMET has had a clear, positive impact on forecasting."A good example is the current seasonal drought that affected most of Kenya and neighboring countries," he said. "The forecast for the season, which we call the 'long rains' of March, April, and May, indicated rainfall at depressed levels. We issued alerts and reminders to the authorities so everybody would be aware of the impending situation. "Rallying a diverse group around shared goalsHenk Verschuur, the first ASMET project manager at EUMETSAT, cited the vitality of the program over the years. "It must be remembered that most of the team members work on ASMET outside their regular duties, which makes its longevity and success even more remarkable," Verschuur said.Both the COMET and EUMETSAT ASMET program managers say that the different cultural and religious backgrounds of the team members have made for colorful discussions. At one team meeting, Weingroff recalled, members pored over Google Earth, looking to see where everyone was from, down to their neighborhoods and even houses."For some, it was a huge deal just to finish elementary school and be selected to attend high school. Nevermind advanced training," Weingroff said. "Their lives are complex, with some working extra jobs to make ends meet, etc. I've never known people from such profoundly different backgrounds who work together with such comaraderie and dedication. We work hard but also enjoy each other a lot."Said Bruce Muller, COMET's international manager, "We're really trying to rally a diverse group of people toward the common cause of improving forecasts."Writer/Contact:Jeff Smith, Science Writer and Public Information OfficerFunder:EUMETSATCollaborators:EAMAC/ASECNA (Niger)EUMETSAT (Germany)Kenya Meteorological Department/Institute for Meteorological Training and ResearchMorocco National Meteorology DepartmentSouth African Weather Service 

Promoting diversity in high-performance computing

May 2, 2017 | Justin Moore was supporting his family of four with a job at an auto parts store while juggling classes at Salish Kootenai College, a Native American college in Montana, when he heard about a computing internship in 2014 at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo.The internship, which used a small, low-cost computer called Raspberry Pi to teach key concepts of high-performance computing, quickly paid off. Today, Moore works full-time as an IT network specialist at Energy Keepers Inc., which manages the hydroelectric plant on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, while he continues to chip away at his degree."I believe the skills I obtained in the internship can be directly attributed to my success in my field," Moore said. "It also gave me the chance to network with some of the brightest minds in the country."Justin Moore turned a summer internship at NCAR into a full-time computer networking job at a hydroelectric plant on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)Since 2014, NCAR has been using Raspberry Pi as part of the SIParCS (Summer Internships in Parallel Computational Science) program to teach "hot" computing skills to small groups of university students, including one or two who are underrepresented in the sciences. In March, in efforts to reach more students, NCAR pivoted to an "externship" model, bringing the Raspberry Pi training to Miami Dade College faculty who can teach the skills to dozens of students at a time. “Raspberry Pi is a perfect platform for high-performance computing education because the credit-card sized mother boards can be linked together to mimic the parallel processing capabilities of a supercomputer and perform simplified geoscience applications,” said Rich Loft, director of technology development in NCAR's Computational and Information Systems Laboratory.A Raspberry Pi, which costs $35 or less, can run a full Linux operating system — the same system used by nearly all supercomputers, in more than 90 percent of smartphones, and in many other electronic devices.A Raspberry Pi kit used during the NCAR training at Miami Dade College. The Raspberry Pi circuit board is in the upper right-hand corner, connected to a blue cable. Components plug into a breadboard in the center of the picture (Photo courtesy Rich Loft, NCAR.)"It's inexpensive. It levels the playing field," said Loft, who led the training at Miami Dade College. "In my view it busts the digital divide."Loft noted that the previous internship approach wasn't reaching as many students as NCAR had hoped, partly because many students found it too difficult to relocate to Boulder during the summer. Miami Dade proved an ideal testbed for an externship model, since it's one of the country's largest universities, with eight campuses and more than 90,000 students, 70 percent of whom are Hispanic and 17 percent of whom are African American."This approach has scalability," Loft said, shortly after returning from the intensive two-day faculty workshop. "You can't scale up a program training one student at a time, even though it's very rewarding."The NCAR directorate, which supported the Miami Dade training through a diversity grant, hopes that an expanded program will reap even greater outcomes.A legacy of successThe Raspberry Pi internship approach already has yielded additional success stories, with students going on to graduate school and receiving prestigious scholarships.Lauren Patterson, for example, was a student at Hampton University in Virginia when she learned Raspberry Pi as a SIParCs intern at NCAR, also in 2014. "I loved that I was able to work hands-on and assemble the Raspberry Pi cluster myself," Patterson said.Lauren Patterson has received an Apple scholarship and will start a job at Google after completing her summer internship on Raspberry Pi at NCAR. (@UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.) She said her experience led to an Apple internship under its scholars program, a $25,000 scholarship, and a software engineering job at Google starting next fall in New York City. Apple scholars participate in a 12-week internship at Apple headquarters in California, receive ongoing coaching and guidance, and serve as Apple ambassadors on their campuses.Gaston Seneza, a senior at Philander Smith College in Arkansas, said that before NCAR's SIParCS 2015 internship he had no practical knowledge of computers.He learned about Linux, sensors, programming, cloud storage, and scientific research, and now has a passion for computer science. "Raspberry Pi was a game-changer for me," he said.Gaston Seneza, who is from Rwanda, also won an Apple scholarship after his summer internship at NCAR. (@UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.) The Rwandan native also was named an Apple scholar, and aspires to go into the field of artificial intelligence. "My dream is to see a world where intelligent machines work for us."Said Loft: "We're trying to get these kids on the hi-tech career onramp. You put machine learning or experience with parallel computing on your resume and you can get hired by Apple, Google, or Amazon – or get into graduate school. These are hot skills." Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence in which a computer program can change or "learn" as it encounters new data.Moore, Patterson, and Seneza all praised the mentoring by Loft, an NCAR senior scientist, and Raghu Raj Prassana Kumar, an NCAR project scientist who has worked with the Raspberry Pi training project since its beginning."It's a lot of fun, and it's very rewarding to help these young people learn," Kumar said.Kumar is also known at NCAR for creative uses of Raspberry Pi, including connecting 12 of them to calculate Pi to a million digits on Pi Day in 2015. (It took longer than a day and one Raspberry Pi burned out from exertion, but it was successful.)Connecting learning to everyday lifeAt the recent Miami Dade workshop, Kumar and Loft, along with University of Wyoming Professor Suresh Muknahallipatna and three of his students, taught 20 Miami Dade faculty members how to set up and program simple projects with a Raspberry Pi. One group used sensors to measure things like temperature, pressure, and humidity, while another created a word frequency histogram from the complete works of William Shakespeare using a Raspberry Pi Hadoop cluster.Ana Guzman (far right), a Miami Dade College associate professor of electricial engineering, gets Raspberry Pi tips from Cena Miller, a University of Wyoming student. A group of Miami Dade faculty members were trained recently on using the low-cost computers for hands-on teaching by a team that included NCAR computer scientists and University of Wyoming students. (Photo courtesy Rich Loft, NCAR.) David Freer, a Miami Dade computer science professor, said he and his colleagues thought the workshop was terrific. "We worked with flame sensors that sent messages to users on their cell phones, along with other cool projects," he said.Djuradj Babich, director of Miami Dade's School of Engineering and Technology, said he hopes to "ride the excitement wave" from the training and develop an ongoing relationship with NCAR. Loft said NCAR also hopes to reach out to additional universities.Qiong Cheng, an assistant professor at Miami Dade, has since set up a Raspberry Pi in her office, complete with a motion detector. She said she will use the Raspberry Pi platform in her classes this fall, which are part of a new bachelor's program in data analytics.She likes the fact that Raspberry Pi, combined with sensors, is an inexpensive way to measure data in the real world, and thus connect learning to everyday life.  "Students are more interested in that," she said, adding that Raspberry Pi supports "our mission to reach underrepresented students — to motivate them, to inspire them, and to provide them with a hands-on learning experience."That's the kind of talk that excites Loft."We want to continue to collaborate to drive this home. Which means that Miami Dade is using this in their curriculum as the workhorse in their computer lab for students," he said. "That's what's going to make me very happy."Writer/Contact:Jeff Smith, Science Writer and Public Information Officer  

Opening doors to a career in geoscience

March 8, 2017 | Michael Bell, recently honored as one of America's outstanding early-career scientists, took an unconventional path to becoming a top tropical cyclone researcher.Bell said he always had an interest in meteorology but the University of Florida, where he first attended, didn't have that major. "I started as a physics major, but I realized that high energy particle physics wasn't for me." So, because he had enjoyed his comparative religion classes, he wound up as a religion major.But since he already had taken many math and physics courses, it was relatively straightforward to go back to school and pursue a second bachelor's in mathematics and meteorology at Metropolitan State College (now Metropolitan State University) in Denver. There he had a professor, Anthony Rockwood, who had worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and encouraged Bell to apply for a student assistantship.Michael Montgomery, Michael Bell, and Wen-Chau Lee (left to right) during the THORPEX Pacific Asian Regional Campaign in Guam in 2008. Lee was Bell's mentor at NCAR and Montgomery, of the Naval Postgraduate School, was Bell's Ph.D. adviser. (Photo courtesy Wen-Chau Lee, NCAR.)The cliché is that the rest is history, and it fits in this case. Bell was so successful as a student assistant that he would spend another decade at NCAR before leaving for academia. In December 2016, President Obama honored Bell as one of America's outstanding early-career scientists. The Office of Naval Research nominated Bell for the award in recognition of his hurricane and typhoon research, much of which was done for the Navy."This is a career highlight for me, " Bell, wrote in an email to his mentor Wen-Chau Lee, an NCAR senior scientist, shortly after being notified of the honor. "I owe you a debt of gratitude for all of the opportunities you have provided me over the years.""NCAR taught me to think critically about data quality and the assumptions that go into data," Bell, now an associate professor at Colorado State University, said in a recent interview. "The field projects (which included flying close to hurricanes) taught me the importance of careful planning and execution, so when the weather you want to study occurs, you're ready to take advantage of it."Bell's enthusiasm and desire to learn impressed the NCAR hiring team, Lee recalled. "He said, 'I want this, I think I can do it.'""I have to invest a lot of time to train a student assistant," Lee said, "so I wasn't looking for a candidate with a ton of programming experiences who would stay a year and leave. I was looking for someone who could assist me over the relatively long term, and I had a feeling that Michael could do it."During his stint at NCAR, Bell was part of at least a half-dozen field campaigns, including RAINEX (Hurricane Rainband and Intensity Change Experiment) in 2005, and T-PARC (THORPEX Pacific Asian Regional Campaign) in 2008. He served as a principal investigator for PREDICT (Pre-Depression Investigation of Cloud Systems in the Tropics), which examined hurricane formation.Lee, Bell, and Paul Harasti of the Naval Research Laboratory also co-developed a tool called VORTRAC (Vortex Objective Radar Tracking and Circulation) that enabled hurricane specialists for the first time to continually monitor central pressure as a fast-changing storm nears land.A rich tradition of mentoringThe National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research have a tradition of helping develop the next generation of scientists.In fiscal 2016 alone, there were more than 400 examples of NCAR and UCAR scientists and engineers working with student-scientists on activities such as mentoring, advising, thesis review, and teaching."There's no shortage of channels available to get great students from prestigious organizations, but the kind of informal programs like student assistantships show how NCAR opens the door for people who otherwise wouldn't get the opportunity," said Senior Scientist Wen-Chau Lee of NCAR's Earth Observing Laboratory.There are also several formal examples, including SOARS (Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research & Science), a UCAR program begun more than two decades ago to broaden participation in atmospheric sciences. In fiscal year 2016, about 65 student protégés either participated in SOARS internships or were supported through webinars and career advising.With mentoring opportunities from undergraduate internships through postdoctoral fellowships, NCAR|UCAR student-scientists have gone on to successful careers in government labs, academia, and the private sector, and many have taken on leadership roles. In the SOARS program alone, more than 100 students have earned a master's degree in science or engineering to date, and three dozen have gone on to get their Ph.D.s.While working at NCAR, Bell earned a master's degree in atmospheric science from Colorado State University and a Ph.D. in meteorology from the Naval Postgraduate School. The Education Assistance program of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research paid tuition for his master's degree. (UCAR manages NCAR with sponsorship by the National Science Foundation.)"Michael always took advantage of the opportunities provided to him," Lee said. "There's an old saying of Confucius that to be a mentor or teacher is like being a big bell. The harder a student hits the bell, the greater the sound. If a student is eager to learn, I will put forward more from my end to challenge them."Graduate students at the University of Hawaii received radar training from Wen-Chau Lee (NCAR, far left) and Michael Bell (University of Hawaii, back row, second from left) in 2013 during an educational deployment of a Doppler on Wheels radar system that was sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Lee's participation was supported by the UCAR UVisit program. (Photo courtesy Wen-Chau Lee, NCAR.)Recalling Bell's early years, NCAR scientist Bob Rilling said: "Michael had a real curiosity and an analytical approach to problems. You could see his wheels turning. He wanted to make things work."The relationship between NCAR and Bell continued long after he moved on in his career.For example, in 2013, Bell invited Lee to the University of Hawaii as part of a UVisit program administered by UCAR. Lee gave lectures to Bell's radar class and helped Bell train graduate students during a Doppler on Wheels educational deployment as part of the Hawaiian Educational Radar Opportunity, a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation.Lee in turn asked Bell to become the principal investigator on a new project called the Lidar Radar Open Software Environment, or LROSE.LROSE aims to develop a unified open source software tool to handle the copious quantities of atmospheric data produced by radars and lidars. The collaboration won a competitive grant from the National Science Foundation Software Infrastructure for Sustained Innovation program, and a community workshop is planned for April at NCAR.Summing up NCAR's role in his professional life, Bell said, "I worked with a lot of good people, like Wen-Chau, and they really helped launch me into my current career."Writer/ContactJeff Smith, Science Writer and Public Information Officer  

New apps set atmospheric data spinning in 3D

Feburary 6, 2017 | Students of microbiology can grow bacteria in petri dishes to better understand their subject. Paleontology students have fossils, and chemistry students have beakers bubbling with reactions. But students of the atmospheric and related sciences are often left with something much less tangible: data, and lots of it.The Meteo AR app uses augmented-reality techniquest to make atmospheric science data more accessible to the public. (©UCAR. This animation is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)Datasets in the atmospheric sciences cover everything from observations made by weather balloons to satellite measurements of cloud cover to output from climate model runs.Now the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is helping make those data less abstract and more concrete  — a little closer to a rock sample and a little further from a computer file. The result is two apps: one using virtual-reality and one using augmented-reality techniques to create 3D visualizations of datasets on a globe that students can move around and view from different perspectives. Meteo VR (Virtual Reality) and Meteo AR (Augmented Reality) are available for use on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. They were developed by NCAR's Computational and Information Systems Lab (CISL)."The goal is to make our data more accessible to the public, especially to students," said Tim Scheitlin, a senior software engineer at CISL's Visualization Lab. "We think it's a fun way to start a dialogue about atmospheric science. If people can get excited about using the app, then maybe they'll start asking questions that will lead to a deeper understanding."The 'wow' factor and beyondThe Meteo AR app takes advantage of the camera on a personal device. When the camera's pointed at an image from a visualization — of sea surface temperature anomalies during an El Niño, or of the inner workings of a hurricane, for example — the visualization pops up onto a 3D globe that can be spun around with a finger.The Meteo VR app requires a virtual reality headset, such as Google Cardboard, and allows the user to "fly around" the globe to look at the projected dataset from any angle.Development of the two apps was led by Nihanth Cherukuru, a doctoral student at Arizona State University. He came to NCAR last summer as part of CISL's Summer Internships in Parallel Computational Science (SIParCS) program, which strives "to make a long-term, positive impact on the quality and diversity of the workforce needed to use and operate 21st century supercomputers."Cherukuru said one of the challenges of the project was to wrestle the vast amounts of data into a format that wouldn’t crash a handheld device. "Mobile phones are tiny devices and the atmospheric data can be really huge," Cherukuru said. "We needed to take that data and trim it down. We created a single image for each timestamp and then we made animations to reduce the computational burden on the phones."While Cherukuru has returned to Arizona State after his SIParCS internship, he is still working with the Visualization Lab. The goal is to expand the apps' capabilities, perhaps, for example, by having users click on parts of the data to get more information."There's kind of a 'wow' factor you get when you first use the app," Scheitlin said. "Our goal is to get past that and make it as educational as we can." Download the appsMeteo AR:For iPhone or iPadFor AndroidMeteo VR:For iPhone or iPadFor Android Writer/contact:Laura Snider, senior science writer

A favorable forecast for Kenyan students

November 30, 2016 | As scientists expand a program to provide critically needed weather observations in developing countries, they are forging a partnership with local schoolchildren and their teachers.The students and teachers are helping to oversee and maintain innovative weather stations, built largely with 3D-printed parts, at four schools in Kenya. By transmitting information about temperature, rainfall, and other weather parameters, the stations can help alert communities to floods and other potential disasters, as well as provide improved weather forecasts to local farmers, who are deciding when to plant and fertilize crops.NCAR scientist Paul Kucera describes the various components of the 3D-PAWS at the Sirua Aulo Maasai High School. (©UCAR. Photo by Kristin Wegner. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.) The weather stations, known as 3D-PAWS (for 3D-Printed Automated Weather Stations), are built with components that can be easily replaced if they wear out in the field. They were designed by weather experts at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and its managing entity, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)."In my 30 years of doing fieldwork, this is one of the best deployments I've ever had," said NCAR scientist Paul Kucera. "At every school, we were joined by hundreds of students and dozens of teachers who wanted to learn more about the weather stations and the value of these forecasts."The weather stations were installed as a partnership with the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program, an international science and education initiative that encompasses tens of thousands of schools. This approach means that 3D-PAWS serves the dual purpose of educating students and improving forecasts."This is a great partnership to now extend our weather stations to schools," said Kristin Wegner, a project manager with the GLOBE Implementation Office, based at UCAR. "There is so much enthusiasm among the teachers and students because it's such a great learning tool as well as helping their communities."Students will learn about local weather and climate by comparing their weather observations to those taken at other schools using science protocols established by GLOBE. They can also assess the impacts of climate change on society and the environment, as well as see how the observations help with farming, flood prediction, and other applications.The installments took place during GLOBE's biannual Lake Victoria Learning Expedition, in which students and scientists from around the world explore the environment around the lake and discuss potential research collaborations. The expedition was coordinated by GLOBE Africa Regional Coordinator Mark Brettenny and  GLOBE Kenya Assistant Country Coordinator Charles Mwangi. Schools also received equipment donated from Youth Learning as Citizen Environmental Scientists.Needed: more stationsLike many developing countries, Kenya does not have detailed forecasts, partly because weather stations are scarce. The density of stations in Africa is eight times lower than recommended by the World Meteorological Organization. Building out a network can be prohibitively expensive, with a single commercial weather station often costing $10,000 to $20,000, plus ongoing funding for maintenance and replacing worn-out parts.To fill this need, UCAR and NCAR scientists have worked for years to come up with a weather station that is inexpensive and easy to fix and can be adapted to the needs of the host country. The resulting 3D-PAWS are constructed out of plastic parts that are custom designed and can be run off a 3D printer, along with off-the-shelf sensors and a basic, credit card-sized computer developed for schoolchildren.The total cost is about $300 per station. As the stations age, the host country can easily have replacement parts printed.Funding for the project comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the U.S. National Weather Service.Scientists installed the 3D-PAWS in Zambia earlier this year. Kenya is the second country to receive them."We're looking forward to installing more stations," Wegner said. "Additional schools are already asking about them."FundersU.S. Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance U.S. National Weather Service.PartnerGlobal Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE)Writer/contact:David Hosansky, Manager of Media Relations

Applying indigenous and Western knowledge to environmental research

November 3, 2016 | Native American researchers, students, and community members will partner with Western science organizations to help shape mutually beneficial research projects as part of a two-year National Science Foundation grant awarded recently to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. UCAR manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) under sponsorship by NSF.The project marks a milestone in collaborations between NCAR|UCAR and Native American partners to increase the presence of indigenous perspectives and participants in geoscience research. It also comes at a time when indigenous people are among the hardest-hit by climate change, with several communities forming America's first wave of climate refugees.Aimed at building research partnerships between Native American and Western scientists, the NCAR|UCAR project has two supporting goals: broadening career paths for Native American students interested in Earth system science, and increasing the cultural sensitivity of Western scientists. Other partners in the project include the NCAR-based Rising Voices program, Haskell Indian Nations University, the University of Arizona's Biosphere 2, Michigan State University, and the GLOBE citizen science program conducted by the UCAR-based Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment."It's an exciting opportunity for both young indigenous scientists and scientists at NCAR and Biosphere 2," said Carolyn Brinkworth, NCAR director of Diversity, Education, and Outreach, and principal investigator of the project. "It's also a very different way of thinking about the science - truly integrating indigenous and traditional Western practices to benefit all of our partners."For example, she noted, indigenous communities can contribute important information about climate change by bringing generations of knowledge and experience with resource management and environmental and ecological processes.Students attending the Rising Voices workshop in Waimea, Hawaii, in 2016, visited a food garden planted according to traditional Hawaiian techniques to learn about climate change and phenology – the study of the seasonality of plants and animals. (Photo courtesy Craig Elevitch.)The pilot project is one of 37 awarded nationwide as part of a new NSF program called INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science). The program aspires to make careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) more accessible to underserved populations.Two students from tribal colleges and universities will be selected to become interns in UCAR's SOARS program (Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science). The students will join research teams comprised of mentors from NCAR, Biosphere 2, and their home communities to co-develop their research projects.One of the project partners, the four-year-old Rising Voices program, has brought social and physical scientists and engineers together with Native American community members to build bonds that lead to research collaboration."The INCLUDES project will actualize many topics we've been talking about in Rising Voices," said Heather Lazrus, an NCAR environmental anthropologist and Rising Voices co-founder. "The project will create a pathway for the students to become engaged in atmospheric sciences at a young age through a citizen science component, and then help keep them engaged for the long haul.”The GLOBE citizen science component will help the SOARS students reach out to their communities through a number of activities, especially with middle- and high-school students. The project also will connect community youth with undergraduate programs at Haskell and the University of Arizona.As it does for all its interns, SOARS will provide multiple mentors to help the Native American students develop their research, computer modeling, scientific communication, and professional skills.SOARS Director Rebecca Haacker said the internship program has brought in students from Haskell before. “But this will enable us to expand our relationship with indigenous students, and it's nice to see the student internships being part of this larger effort.”The mentors will be supported with cultural training by Michigan State University professor Kyle Powys Whyte, who is also a member of Rising Voices. "We don't want a situation of Western scientists working with Native Americans without any preparation," Brinkworth said. "We want the Western scientists to be introduced to the students' culture, their ways of thinking, their ways of working."The plan is for two SOARS interns to be selected by early 2017 and participate in research projects over the summer. In a second phase, NSF plans to bring together all the pilot projects two years from now with the goal of building out a comprehensive “Alliance” program.Brinkworth said that when she saw the request for proposals, she thought NCAR was uniquely positioned, in part because of Rising Voices, which has strengthened relationships among participating scientists and Native American communities.She hopes the new pilot project and the lessons to be learned will become a template for other efforts. "We are trying to produce a model for other Western scientific organizations that want to partner with indigenous scientists and communities," she said.Writer/contactJeff Smith, Science Writer and Public Information Officer 

Free family fun at Super Science Saturday: Nov. 5

BOULDER, Colo. — Come learn about our changing climate at this year’s Super Science Saturday on Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Mesa Lab in south Boulder.This year’s theme coincides with a major new climate exhibit at the Mesa Lab. Climate-related activities will include a presentation on ozone's effect on plants, a tree-ring activity demonstrating the living record of climate, a "flubber" glacier display by Boulder-based UNAVCO, and shows by NCAR Wizards that focus on changing temperatures.Astrophysicist Jeffrey Bennett, author of the climate books "The Wizard that Saved the World" and "I, Humanity," will share his stories.In addition, a number of other fun activities and experiments are on tap, including weather balloon launches, modular robotics, the CBS Denver Channel 4 mobile weather lab, Colorado State University's Little Shop of Physics, and more.Modular robotics was just one of the many activities at the 2015 Super Science Saturday. This year's event features hands-on climate and weather activities. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)"This year we wanted to highlight climate to reflect the outstanding updated interactive exhibit at our Mesa Lab," said Eileen Carpenter of the UCAR Center for Science Education. "But we also have our traditionally popular activities for children and entire families to enjoy as well." UCAR is the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, which provides education and research services and manages NCAR under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation.The multimedia climate displays on the second floor constitute what is believed to be the region’s largest permanent exhibit dedicated to climate change. One popular interactive exhibit, "Choose our Future," enables visitors to see how the choices they make, such as the type of car they drive, affect future temperatures. The information panels, touchscreens, audio recordings, and other activities highlight how our climate system works and the potential impacts of a changing climate on society and the environment.Activities at Super Science Saturday also will include learning about air movement by making devices to test in a wind tunnel, creating projects with solar-sensitive beads, face painting, and a pingpong ball launch.NCAR's High Altitude Observatory will display a solar telescope and provide information about the 2017 solar eclipse, and the NCAR 3D visualization laboratory will demonstrate some of its scientific animations.In addition to the Mesa Lab's science exhibits, a new tactile art exhibit will be open all day.  Snacks and lunch items will be available for purchase in the cafeteria.DETAILS:What: Super Science SaturdayWhen: Saturday, Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.Where: NCAR’s Mesa Lab, 1850 Table Mesa Drive, BoulderWho:  Activities for the entire family, with events especially focused on children ages 6 to 12.Cost:  FreeMore information: 2016 Super Science SaturdayWriter:Jeff Smith, Science Writer and Public Information Officer 

NCAR to open multimedia exhibit on climate change

BOULDER – The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) next month is unveiling a major new exhibit about climate change. The multimedia displays at NCAR’s Mesa Lab will constitute what is believed to be the region’s largest permanent exhibit dedicated to climate change.  It will highlight the workings of our climate system, how scientists study it, and the potential impacts of warming temperatures and altered precipitation patterns on society and the environment. “Our goal is to provide the public with an engaging and scientifically accurate forum to learn about climate change, which is perhaps the signature environmental challenge of our time,” said Becca Hatheway, exhibits manager at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, which manages NCAR. The touchscreens, audio recordings, activities, and artistically designed panels will entirely replace a more text-oriented exhibit that dated from 2003. This artist's rendition highlights part of the climate exhibit. The first section of the exhibit (right) provides an overview of Earth's climate system. The interactive display (left) allows visitors to explore how future levels of greenhouse gas emissions will affect heat waves. (Illustration by Condit Exhibits.) Although climate change can be a grim subject, the exhibit also aims to leave visitors with a sense of hope. It includes a major section that helps guide visitors through choices they can make, such as consuming less electricity or gas, which can have implications for climate change.  “We don’t want visitors leaving the exhibit feeling nothing but doom and gloom,” Hatheway said. The exhibit, housed in NCAR’s landmark Mesa Lab in south Boulder, will be free to the public. The Mesa Lab draws about 100,000 visitors a year to its exhibits on weather, the Sun, supercomputing, and other topics related to the atmospheric sciences. From climate basics to choosing our future The exhibit will be divided into five sections, each designed with input from NCAR scientists. The sections provide an overview of our climate system, the influence of greenhouse gases, the techniques that scientists use to study climate, the impacts of climate change on society and ecosystems, and strategies for reducing our carbon footprint and adapting to a changing climate. One of the highlights is an interactive exhibit called “Shifting the Weather Odds.” Using balls that drop into different slots, visitors will be able to see how higher emissions of greenhouse gases will lead to extreme heat waves occurring more frequently. Another interactive exhibit, “Choose our Future,” will enable visitors to select activities such as the use of lower-carbon building materials and see how that would affect global temperatures by century’s end. In addition, the exhibit will feature a touchscreen with “Community Stories”—recordings of people across the country sharing observations about local climate change and what they're doing about it. Visitors eventually will be able to upload their own stories. “It’s really important to have these first-person accounts,” Hatheway said. “Climate change is something that affects all of us in different ways.” Exhibits manager Becca Hatheway examines new climate displays.(©UCAR. Photo by David Hosansky. This photo is freely available for media & nonprofit use.) Condit Exhibits is building and installing the exhibit. NCAR Senior Scientist Jeffrey Kiehl, who provided guidance during the planning process, said the exhibit can help adults and children alike learn more about climate change. “This is a wonderful project," he said. "It not only conveys the scientific seriousness of climate change, but perhaps more importantly shows some of the ways we can take on the challenge of addressing the issue.” Explore climate online Climate Learning Zone (UCAR Center for Science Education)

Lighting it up for Super Science Saturday

BOULDER— Families, teachers, and the general public are invited to learn all sorts of fun and educational aspects about light at this year’s Super Science Saturday. The free event will be held on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Mesa Lab in south Boulder. "We chose light as our theme this year, since 2015 is the International Year of Light," said Eileen Carpenter of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research's Center for Science Education (SciEd). "There's a lot of research going on about light all over the world, and we will have special demonstrations, activities, and experiments focusing on that exciting topic." The event also will include a host of other science activities for the entire family. A budding scientist participates in an experiment at a previous Super Science Saturday. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.) Super Science Saturday is geared toward all ages, with activities especially tailored to children 6 to 12 years old, Carpenter said. Light touches society in many ways, through communications, entertainment, culture and, of course, science. NCAR Wizards, as well as scientists with NCAR's High Altitude Observatory and SciEd staff, will present special light shows and demonstrations. Colorado State University's Little Shop of Physics will bring many engaging experiments including ones that glow in the dark. Other highlights will include hands-on activity tables (such as creating projects with solar-sensitive beads), modular robotics workshops, a Doppler weather radar on wheels, and a ping pong ball launch. Face painting also will be offered. Additional organizations involved in the events include Front Range Community College, the Center for Severe Weather Research, Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center, Maker Bolder, the National Center for Interactive Learning, Vaisala, Ocean Classrooms, and The Arctic Arts Project. The Mesa Lab's exhibits and art galleries will be open all day. Snacks and lunch items will be available for purchase in the cafeteria. The Nasal Ridge Pickers bluegrass band will play in the Mesa Lab library twice during the day. DETAILS:  What: Super Science Saturday When: Saturday, Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Where: NCAR's Mesa Lab, 1850 Table Mesa Drive, Boulder (map)      Who: Activities for the entire family, with events especially focused on children ages 6 to 12. Cost: Free  More information: 2015 Super Science Saturday

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