A miniature research vessel: A small-scale ocean-exploration demonstration of geophysical methods
Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Graduate student members of the University of Hawaii Geophysical Society have designed a small-scale model research vessel (R/V) that uses sonar to create 3D maps of a model seafloor in real-time. A pilot project was presented to the public at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology’s (SOEST) Biennial Open House weekend in 2013 and, with financial support from the Society of Exploration Geophysicists and National Science Foundation, was developed into a full exhibit for the same event in 2015. Nearly 8,000 people attended the two-day event, including children and teachers from Hawaii’s schools, home school students, community groups, families, and science enthusiasts. Our exhibit demonstrates real-time sonar mapping of a cardboard volcano using a toy size research vessel on a programmable 2-dimensional model ship track suspended above a model seafloor. Ship waypoints were wirelessly sent from a Windows Surface tablet to a large-touchscreen PC that controlled the exhibit. Sound wave travel times were recorded using an ultrasonic emitter/receiver attached to an Arduino microcontroller platform and streamed through a USB connection to the control PC running MatLab, where a 3D model was updated as the ship collected data. Our exhibit demonstrates the practical use of complicated concepts, like wave physics, survey design, and data processing in a way that the youngest elementary students are able to understand. It provides an accessible avenue to learn about sonar mapping, and could easily be adapted to talk about bat and marine mammal echolocation by replacing the model ship and volcano. The exhibit received an overwhelmingly positive response from attendees and incited discussions that covered a broad range of earth science topics.