Windward college training
in the use of satellite data offers
opportunities for business
and the environment
Kailua group, WCC study area streamsBy Helen Altonn
Within minutes, Joseph Ciotti had located and mapped all ABC Stores in Waikiki near hotels with 300 or more rooms.
The Windward Community College professor was demonstrating how advanced computer technology can be used for economic, environmental and other benefits.
The college has added remote sensing and geographic information and global positioning systems to its earth, marine and space science program.
"Windward is kind of lucky," said Ciotti, astronomy, physics and math professor. "We're three years behind everybody on the mainland but two years ahead of everybody in Hawaii."
Called the "Microsoft of the new century," GIS systems enable the use of satellite data to create maps for a wide range of purposes, from monitoring traffic flow to tracking infectious diseases.
Community groups, government agencies and University of Hawaii researchers are receiving WCC training in the high-tech systems and using the data for research.
An introductory night course on GIS and GPS caters to workers who want retraining or to update themselves on technology, said Ciotti, who directs WCC's Remote Sensing and GIS center, as well as the Aerospace Exploration Lab and Hawaii Space Grant Consortium.
Received $93,000 grantThe college received a $93,000 NASA "Mission to Planet Earth" grant in 1997 to establish a cutting-edge training and monitoring center. It was one of 16 colleges funded, and the only community college. Others were big-name places such as Yale, Stanford, Purdue, Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Ciotti said NASA was impressed with the quality of WCC's science faculty, including six with doctoral degrees.
Besides giving undergraduates hands-on science experience, Ciotti said the enthusiastic faculty members do a lot of community outreach.
Collaborative programs are conducted under the broad umbrella of "Pacific Partnerships for Science Education." Emphasis is on undergraduate and K-12 science enrichment, teacher and work force training, parent-child workshops and community awareness.
Among WCC's partners are the Kailua Bay Advisory Council, Kawainui Marsh Foundation, state Department of Land and Natural Resources, UH Institute of Marine Biology and East-West Center.
The college receives financial and other support from the UH Space Grant College, headed by Jeffrey Taylor in the Institute of Geophysics and Planetology.
Taylor said the science program is "spectacular. The facility itself is beautiful. First-class people are working there too. It's a great place and they make good use of the amount of money they get."
He said Ciotti is "a master educator ... who brings out the best in students.
"Undergraduate research to me is the heart and soul of the space program," Taylor said. "What Joe is doing is developing a curriculum and giving students research opportunities. There is no better way to learn than by doing something."
Classes in Hale 'Imiloa, WCC's 2-year-old science center, include astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, geology, microbiology, oceanography and physics. A Polynesian voyaging course combines all the sciences and stresses environmental stewardship.
The center has global positioning units with an accuracy of one, six and 600 feet and plans to set up a GPS base station in Kaneohe Bay where students do a lot of research. Marine biology professor Dave Krupp and his students are using GPS there to monitor the reef's health.
Planetarium to be completedWCC's science program will take another leap next year with completion of a state-funded planetarium. Private funds also are sought to build an observatory with a meteorological earth station, astronomical observatory and educational training facility.
Ciotti, who has lectured 28 years at the Bishop Museum planetarium, said WCC's $4 million planetarium "will provide a better illusion of the night sky for teaching Polynesian navigation."
He said he went around the world looking for the right projection system and found one in Utah that "does things for the Earth as well as the sky."
Besides simulating the night sky, it will look down at the planet and project three-dimensional animated images of objects and scenery, he said.
For example, he said viewers will be able to take a simulated undersea voyage to a coral reef, ride through a DNA molecule or go on an underwater archaeological dig.
A former student donated $20,000 for the meteorological/astronomical observatory, and the science center hopes to raise another $20,000 to finish it by the time the planetarium is ready.
The planetarium equipment will include a 16-inch telescope to be installed in the observatory.
A satellite tracking station already is operating as part of the facility, with reception from weather and ocean satellites and direct access to NASA Television.
Ciotti plans eventually to install an antenna devoted to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Project. WCC then will join Project Argus, a worldwide network of hundreds of radio telescopes working to detect ET signals.
Kailua Bay group,By Helen Altonn
WCC are working together
to study area streams
The Kailua Bay Advisory Council and Windward Community College are combining their talents and technology to study Windward Oahu streams.
"We have a common vision of education and community outreach," says Donna Ashizawa, the council's volunteer water quality monitoring program coordinator.
"It's just perfect."
Even before an agreement just signed by the council and college for a cooperative project, Ashizawa and Dave Krupp, marine biology professor, were mapping streams with students.
They've finished streams where storm drains empty in Kaneohe and Waimanalo and now they're starting in Kailua, she said.
"It's really a good partnership because we want to get out in the community, to teach people about water quality in their own watersheds. When we get out and map, we have volunteers come with us so there's that learning," she said.
Ashizawa has been using WCC's computers for geographic information system data and she said the council is purchasing a server for the science computer center to get GIS maps out on the Internet.
"We're also looking at land use on the sides of streams and paying attention to the kinds of things emptying into streams," she said. They're documenting litter sites so stream clean-ups can be organized, she said.
The idea isn't to point fingers at people doing anything illegal along streams, she said. "It's to get a better understanding of how water flows into the watersheds and how things drain off streets into streams and into the bay."
She's coordinating the project with WCC's computer people and will take maps into classrooms to interact with students about water quality.
"Kids are so computer-literate, I'm just blown away," she said. "It will be a very exciting tool to get into classrooms. Kids will be able to see different features that might contribute to water quality. It's like mini-watershed management at a young age."
She said Krupp also has ideas about creating animated computer sequences or games with different scenarios to show students the impact of various activities on water quality.
Anyone interested in volunteering can
call Donna Ashizawa at 234-0702.