News Story

Sending the OU Council out into a rainy quarry – virtually

Alan Fletcher, Friday 28 Sep 2007

In order to showcase collaborative project work for the OU Council “student support” residential weekend, KMi and Earth Sciences joined forces today to give a live demo to the council of how digital technology has been used to solve the problem of Enabling Remote Access. The project was born out of the need of Earth Science’s Dr Jessica Bartlett and Sarah Davies to enable a wheelchair using student to participate in a geology field trip. The KMi team of Dr Trevor Collins and Mark Gaved built a mobile wireless network using standard domestic equipment for use in remote locations. In 2006 this was used on a Scottish mountainside and in 2007 was re-engineered to include an internet connection, allowing communication with a base station far from the field activity taking place in a Buckinghamshire quarry.

Today, the ERA team unboxed the rugged field network for use on the OU campus. The assembled Council members were asked to participate in a field exercise to identify rock samples. Sending one group out in the rain armed with digital cameras, mobile webcams and walkie-talkies, the group left behind at base had to communicate instructions, analyse video and still photography sent via the mobile wireless network and determine what rock samples had been found in the field.

“The ERA project is a fine example of using internet technologies in simple ways to solve problems in an innovative and cost effective manner” said Peter Scott, KMi director, who was hosting the event. “We’re not putting computers in your training shoes here, instead we are making a neat package solution that can be used to learn in a zillion different real world environments. How cool is that?”

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