Famed ocean explorer Robert Ballard says he’s just a few months from the culmination of a 28-year dream–and he’ll be taking students along with him virtually as he achieves it.
Best known for discovering the wreck of the Titanic in 1985, Ballard is the founder of the JASON Project, which connects students with explorers during live sea expeditions in an attempt to spark their interest in science.
Speaking at the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference in Austin Feb. 6, Ballard told several thousand educators that recent advances in “telepresence” technology will enable him to keep unmanned robot submarines on the ocean floor 24-7.
Fiber-optic cables will transmit live video feeds from cameras on these remote-controlled submarines to a brand-new command center at the University of Rhode Island’s Institute for Archaeological Oceanography, where Ballard works. Similar command centers are being built at 11 other oceanography institutes across the country, he said, and these facilities will all be linked together via the ultra high-speed Internet2 backbone.
And, thanks to an $11 million live production studio that National Geographic is helping to build next to the main command center at URI, students will be able to experience these breakthroughs, too.
Students at Internet2-connected schools will be able to view remote camera images from the sea floor, and they’ll be able to listen in on live conversations among scientists as they discuss their discoveries. All Rhode Island middle schools are connected to Internet2 already, Ballard said–and they’re building their own remote command centers in the school libraries, so students can join in these explorations firsthand and even remotely control the submarines themselves.