Monterey Initiative for Information Infrastructure and Linking Applications

by Roger L. Born

The Monterey Bay region of California, with its many natural resources, is a major international center for ocean, weather and astronomical research. The strength of ocean research alone is exemplified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and its world-leading high-technology approach to data collection.

MBARI is joined in the region by researchers at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station, California State University's Moss Landing Marine Laboratory, University of California's (UCSC) Long Marine Laboratory and the U.S. Navy's Research Laboratory. Soon to be added is a UCSC marine research center and marine research facilities of the new California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB), both at the former Ft. Ord. Add to this the Navy's Fleet Numerical Oceanographic Center (FNOC) and California Fish and Game facilities and the importance of the region as a center for oceanographic research becomes evident. In fact, the uniqueness of this incredible ocean resource, particularly the bay's submarine canyon which rivals the Grand Canyon in size and interest, has led to the recent designation of the Monterey Bay recently as a National Marine Sanctuary.

On top of the oceanic research interest are both weather research, evidenced by the National Weather Service's regional forecast office and other NOAA facilities, and astonomical research, based at the Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy (MIRA).

Each of these institutions is a significant contributor in its own right. With cutting-edge information technology, individual strengths are multiplied many times over as collaboration is encouraged and facilitated.

Futures Network Formed

Several years ago, when the Monterey Peninsula learned that Ft. Ord, the home of the Army's 7th Infantry, would be closed as part of military downsizing, community leaders banded together to form the Monterey Bay Futures Network. With the participation of Leon Panetta, then a member of the House of Representatives and now President Clinton's chief of staff, the group focused on the future of the region, recognizing, among other things, the importance of a state-of-the-art information infrastructure.

Under the leadership of Bruce Gritton from MBARI, a collaboration of individuals from the local scientific and technical organizations began investigating the characteristics of the required information infrastructure. Many from education, business and government joined the collaboration as both network information providers and users. This collaborative became known as the Initiative for Information Infrastructure and Linking Applications (I3LA).

The first goal of I3LA is to fundamentally strengthen K-14 schools by tapping local ocean/astronomical research to inspire teaching and enrich learning. To identify ways to achieve this goal, educators from many of the local institutions, such as UCSC, CSUMB, the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), Cabrillo College, the Santa Cruz and Monterey County Offices of Education, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Discovery Laboratory, formed the Monterey Bay Research and Education Futures (MBREF) group, which has now defined its first project: the ultimate field trip - electronic and virtual - through a regional computer network. Grants Make It Possible

The regional computer network is made possible by a number of grants from government and business sources. Key among them are two Pacific Bell Telephone California Research and Education Network (CalREN) grants. One funds the installation of a wide area Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) network interconnecting Tier I sites in San Jose, Santa Cruz and Monterey (see map), with a cooperative donation of service via Sprint's ATM network. The lead application for the ATM network will be two-way broadcast quality video for distance education and remote participation in live presentations from the MBARI submarine as it explores the Monterey Bay canyon. This grant covers monthly service fees through June 1996.

The second CalREN grant pays for Frame Relay connections to Tier II and III sites and monthly service fees through June 1996. This grant also pays for three lines of Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN) service to selected sites for video conferencing tests.

Other grants have been awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Commerce, National Space and Aeronautics Administration (NASA) and Apple Computers for workstation equipment and school curriculum development. In all, some $6 million will be received. Three-Tier Network

Tier I sites are the large universities - UCSC, CSUMB and NPS; the Monterey Bay Aquarium; its research facility, MBARI; and the Technical Museum of Innovation in San Jose. They will form the ATM backbone for the region. These sites will exchange digital information as well as be a source of information for the Tier II and III sites.

Tier II sites will receive Frame Relay technology with T1 bandwidth. These sites include the County Offices of Education which will provide domain name server functions for the Tier III sites, as well as other program material. MIRA, Cabrillo College and the Monterey Bay Technology Education Center, a K-12 school, are also Tier II sites. Connection to the Tier I backbone sites is via Permanent Virtual Circuits (PVCs) through the Pacific Bell Frame Relay clouds.

Fifteen Tier III sites are elementary schools receiving 56k bps Frame Relay data lines. They will connect to their respective county education offices via PVCs through the Frame Relay clouds. Each school will have a router to tie its local area networks (LANs) into the Frame Relay drop and to assemble/disassemble Frame Relay packets. Other Tier III sites include public libraries, government agencies and research locations.

One high school and 10 elementary schools will receive 128k bps ISDN lines for virtual field trips via video teleconferencing. Scientists at the research institutions will multicast live demonstrations to schools, inviting the children to ask questions from their multimedia systems.

Access to the Internet will be furnished to all sites. The Monterey Bay Regional Network will become a significant member of the National Information Infrastructure. Linking Applications

As with other modern computer networks, much of the physical part of the network is in the so-called switching "clouds" provided by the local telephone company. It is the applications that join members of the network - the linking applications.

The possibilities for linking applications in the Monterey Bay region are boundless. MBARI operates a research ship over the submarine canyon in the bay and out to sea. A key research tool is the remotely operated vehicle (ROV), an unmanned submarine guided under water through a tether to the ship. Video and other sample data is microwaved from the ship to shore where scientists observe and control the ROV. Baylink is a linking application that will couple Monterey Bay to the world. Video, data and interpretation from the MBARI ROV and other sources will be made available to scientists and educators.

Monterey Bay Aquarium scientists are working closely with teachers and students from testbed schools to develop Virtual Canyon exemplars under NSF Network Infrastructure for Education (NIE) funding. The three applications will focus on the canyon wall, the water column and the cold seep phenomenon. Video selections will be annotated with text and be made available first on CD-ROM and, after test use and modification, over the network.

The Real Time Environmental Information Network and Analysis System (REINAS) linking application is being jointly developed by UCSC, MBARI and NPS. A network of environmental sensors will give real-time access to data and real-time control of sensors from remote computers. Eventually, students in school science classes will be able to design and participate in marine experiments.

During Comet Shoemaker-Levy's crash into Jupiter, photographs from telescopes around the world, including the Hubble space telescope, were immediately available on the Internet. Students with high-speed computer access and a high-resolution display could follow an exciting show. Closer to home, the 36" telescope at MIRA's observatory is fitted with a Charge Coupled Device camera providing a digital signal usable by personal computers.

Other NIE testbed schools are working with MIRA astronomers to develop exemplars for remote observing, virtual telescope, structured instruction and astronomical networking. Astronomical networking includes use of the Internet to follow events such as Comet Shoemaker-Levy, an astro-interest bulletin board system and remote data gathering. Structured instruction follows the more traditional lines of providing annotated images that illuminate a selected subject in astronomy. The subject may be the large gaseous planets in the solar system or the rocky planets or our moon, etc.

More innovative is the virtual telescope application. MIRA's image database of approximately 100 gigabytes will be accessible over the network. Students can search the database to find visual and spectroscopic images in many wavelengths for any subject of interest. The students evaluate the data, drawing their own (teacher-guided) conclusions for the information obtained. As astronomical data is normally stable over long periods of time, it is like having your own 36" telescope in your classroom.

If existing data is unsatisfactory or procedural routine is to be taught, remote observing is the application of choice. Students will set up their own observing program, relaying coordinates and observing parameters to MIRA over the network. Weather permitting, the observations will be made that night by MIRA technicians. Data is sent back to the school over the network the next day in time for analysis.

The San Lorenzo Valley River Watershed exemplar is the third NIE application in development by scientists and teacher-student teams. As part of NOAA's Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program, students at the San Lorenzo Valley High School are preparing to collect air temperature, precipitation, cloud cover, water temperature, precipitation pH, biometrics and land cover data along the watershed for input over the network to a GLOBE processing center. Students at the high school will then study the returned environmental images generated from GLOBE data taken by students around the world.

The Navy's FNOC in Monterey prepares worldwide weather and oceanographic forecasts every six hours. NOAA makes this data available to schools and other users. Students can call up air pressure contours on their computer screens, place them over an outline of a selected part of the world and watch the data change over time. Satellite data of cloud movements can be superimposed over the contours. The relationship of pressure to air mass movements are thus studied. That is only one of the many weather and oceanographic relationships that can be observed. The capability exists today and was developed independently with NOAA funding.

The Defense Language Institute (DLI) and the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) incorporate language arts as yet another center of local vitality. A consortium of DLI, MIIS, UCSC and CSUMB will develop ways to enhance language training through the use of the regional computer network. Students can learn from each other and from the different and unique characteristics of sister institutions. The military style is total immersion with native speakers. MIIS focuses on language use in international trade and diplomacy. The universities are interested in arts, humanities and research. New paradigms in language education are anticipated from this collaboration. Key is the pooling of knowledge and resources through the use of technology.

Through these linking applications, students will learn firsthand about world-class resources close to home. A visit is nice, but application is meaningful. Local testbeds will be first and, if sustainable, the application will be placed on international networks. The Next Step

Distance learning, electronic field trips, Internet information access, newsgroup messaging and video conferencing are exciting futures. The technology, which already exists, is the easy part. Curriculum must be developed to successfully utilize this new technology in the school environment. Teachers and students need training to effectively use the technology. The Monterey Bay region, known for its tourist and agriculture industries, has a new, powerful economic industry - science and education. It started years ago by visionaries such as Captain Paul Wolf (FNOC), David Packard (MBARI) and Craig Chester and Bruce Weaver (MIRA). It picked up intensity with the closing of Ft. Ord and the resulting community collaboration initiated by Leon Panetta. This new economic industry is coming to fruition with the new university, the spirit of collaboration and completion of the regional information infrastructure. The schools, kindergarten through post-doctoral, must supply the resources for this new industry. And they are. It is perhaps the hottest regional development story today.


Roger L. Born is a consultant in technical project management, marketing and business planning in the Monterey Bay region and First Tiger on the I3LA's Marketing Tiger Team.