Traveling planetarium a hit at Coventry middle school

March 20th, 2014 by Lynn

    Dr. Dennis Machnik spoke to a group of Feinstein Middle School eighth graders before they entered the planetarium Wednesday morning. Jessica Boisclair. Daily Times.

    ByJESSICA BOISCLAIR
    Jboisclair@ricentral.com

    Dr. Dennis Machnik spoke to a group of Feinstein Middle School eighth graders before they entered the planetarium Wednesday morning. Jessica Boisclair. Daily Times.

    COVENTRY— More than 400 eighth graders at Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School were given the opportunity to pack into a portable planetarium Wednesday and Thursday morning and learn about the various planets, stars and galaxies in our solar system.

    Linda Grandchamp, eighth grade science teacher, invited Dr. Dennis Machnik, a professor from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, to visit the students as a way to introduce them to astronomy.

    Each spring, the new eighth graders are taught about astronomy in the classroom.

    Dr. Machnik gave a presentation to six classes on Wednesday and another six classes on Thursday morning as a way to educate the students about the universe.

    Approximately eight years ago, he said that Plymouth state provided him with the portable planetarium after they received a grant.

    Once a week when he is not teaching classes, he travels throughout New England with the blow-up sphere to various schools.

    The planetarium accommodates approximately 30 students; housing a standard LCD projector in the center.

    Dr. Machnik said he uses a free program called stellarium, which students can download on their home computers.

    This program allows him to view the sky as it is at the current time; with a remote he can fast forward to the nighttime hours.

    Using the projector and the program, Dr. Machnik can also show constellations, planets, galaxies, star clusters and comets on the dome.

    Approximately 30 students filled the blow-up planetarium every hour to learn about the weather, astrology and the various aspects of astronomy.

    Plymouth State University hosts Doppler Radar Mobile Unit

    February 13th, 2014 by Lynn

       Sophisticated weather equipment open to public visits

      Doppler on Wheels vehicle collecting severe weather data during a tornado. Photo courtesy Kevin Burris.

      PLYMOUTH — Meteorology students at Plymouth State University and local public schools will get a first-hand look at one of the world’s most sophisticated pieces of weather research technology, as the Doppler-on-Wheels (DOW) mobile radar system spends the next three weeks in the Plymouth area.

      In addition to PSU students and faculty using the DOW to study weather science, students in Plymouth, Campton, Rumney and Bedford will get onsite visits, as well as the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway, the Rey Center in Waterville Valley, and the Mount Washington Observatory in Gorham.

      The DOW vehicle, which has been featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” show, will arrive in Plymouth Feb. 7 courtesy of a National Science Foundation Center for Severe Weather Research grant application submitted by PSU Associate Professor of Meteorology Dr. Sam Miller. The DOW will be available for public viewing in Plymouth Feb. 14 at the Town Common, and DOW staffers will speak about how the vehicle has been used to study thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes and winter weather such as lake-effect snow.

      “It’s wonderful to get it here,” said Dr. Miller. “It’s going to be really useful to us because it’s a great outreach tool to raise awareness with the public, it’s wonderful as an educational tool for teaching a variety of classes and it’s great for research purposes.”

      Miller said some of the projects students are anticipating using the weather radar unit to study are freezing precipitation, heavy snow squalls, mixed precipitation events and other winter weather in northern New England.

      A group of engineers travel with the vehicle to train students and faculty about how the equipment works and to assist with research projects developed by PSU.

      The National Science Foundation-funded DOW program has three vehicles and spends about six months each year on the road; two months typically is spent storm-chasing during tornado and hurricane season, and the balance is spent on education and other research projects, such as the time in Plymouth. The schedule for the DOW in our area is as follows:

      Feb. 10
      9 – 10 a.m. Blue Heron School, Squam Lake
      11 a.m. to 1:00 pm, Holderness Public School

      Feb. 11
      All day, Plymouth Regional High School and Plymouth Elementary

      Feb. 12
      All day, Bedford High School

      Feb. 13
      Morning, Rumney Elementary School
      Afternoon, Campton Elementary

      Feb. 14
      9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Plymouth Town Common (public availability)

      Feb. 17-18
      Hartman Union Building, Plymouth State University

      Feb. 19
      All day, Weather Discovery Center, North Conway

      Feb. 20
      Morning,Weather Discovery Center, N. Conway
      Afternoon, HUB

      Feb. 21
      All day, Rey Center, Waterville Valley

      Feb. 22-23
      All day, McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, Concord

      Feb. 26
      Base of Mount Washington Auto Road

      Doppler On Wheels will visit Plymouth area for 3 Weeks

      February 7th, 2014 by Lynn

        PLYMOUTH — Meteorology students at Plymouth State University and local public schools will get a first-hand look at one of the world’s most sophisticated pieces of weather research technology, as the Doppler-on-Wheels (DOW) mobile radar system spends the next three weeks in the Plymouth area. In addition to PSU students and faculty using the DOW to study weather science, students in Plymouth, Campton, Rumney and Bedford will get on-site visits, as well as the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway, the Rey Center in Waterville Valley, and the Mount Washington Observatory in Gorham.

        The DOW vehicle, which has been featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” show, will arrive in Plymouth February 7 courtesy of a National Science Foundation Center for Severe Weather Research grant application submitted by PSU Associate Professor of Meteorology Dr. Sam Miller. The DOW will be available for public viewing in Plymouth February 14 at the Town Common and DOW staffers will speak about how the vehicle has been used to study thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes and winter weather such as lake-effect snow.

        “It’s wonderful to get it here,” said Dr. Miller. “It’s going to be really useful to us because it’s a great outreach tool to raise awareness with the public, it’s wonderful as an educational tool for teaching a variety of classes and it’s great for research purposes.”

        Miller said some of the projects students are anticipating using the weather radar unit to study are freezing precipitation, heavy snow squalls, mixed precipitation events and other winter weather in northern New England.

        A group of engineers travel with the vehicle to train students and faculty about how the equipment works and to assist with research projects developed by PSU.

        The National Science Foundation-funded DOW program has three vehicles and spends about six months each year on the road; two months typically is spent storm-chasing during tornado and hurricane season, and the balance is spent on education and other research projects, such as the time in Plymouth. The schedule for the DOW in our area is as follows:

        Feb. 10 9 – 10 a.m. Blue Heron School, Squam Lake, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Holderness Public School

        Feb. 11 All day, Plymouth Regional High School and Plymouth Elementary

        Feb. 12 All day, Bedford High School

        Feb. 13 Morning, Rumney Elementary School, Afternoon, Campton Elementary

        Feb. 14 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Plymouth Town Common (public availability)

        Feb. 17-18 Hartman Union Building, Plymouth State University

        Feb. 19 All day, Weather Discovery Center, North Conway

        Feb. 20 Morning, Weather Discovery Center, N. Conway, Afternoon, HUB

        Feb. 21 All day, Rey Center, Waterville Valley

        Feb. 22-23 All day, McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, Concord

        Feb. 26 Base of Mount Washington Auto Road

        Detecting lightning is harder than it sounds

        August 26th, 2013 by Lynn

          Lightning rolls through the sky over Sonic restaurant in the Denbigh section of Newport News, Virginia, Saturday, June 30, 2012, as severe thunderstorms moved through the area. (Rob Ostermaier/Newport News Daily Press/MCT

          My family and I were once caught by a thunderstorm while hiking above treeline on Mount Madison, and the memory still makes me shudder.

          When lightning flashed about six feet over my head, the sense of staggering power and force all around us was absolutely paralyzing; it was like all the White Mountains range had exploded at once.

          With that in mind, it sounds a little weird that the New Hampshire Innovation Research Center has handed out a $10,000 grant to Airmar Corp. of Milford and a retired Plymouth State University professor to develop a lightning detector.

          What’s so hard about detecting one of the most powerful forces in nature? Nothing, of course – unless you need to do it accurately, quickly, cheaply and from far away because you’re, say, fighting forest fires or alerting boaters on Lake Winnipesaukee. Then it’s pretty difficult, especially the “cheaply” part.

          “You can get that sort of information now from national lightning networks, but they’re all subscription services,” said James Koermer, a professor emeritus in meteorology who is working on the sensor at his new home in Florida, the lightning capital of the U.S. by a long shot.

          These networks use multiple antennas to detect the electromagnetic pulse emitted by lightning – that’s what makes AM radio crackle during thunderstorms – and then triangulate the results to figure out where the bolt originated. That’s pretty much the way GPS works, although with different frequencies, by triangulating signals from multiple satellites to determine your location.

          Koermer and grad student Katie Laro of Concord are trying to do that triangulation from multiple antenna on a single small device.

          We’re using eight receivers within the device – four in a square one way, the others perpendicular,” Koermer said. “It will measure “subtle differences in timing” and the goal is to detect lighting up to 60 miles away.

          Simple in theory, hard in practice.

          Airmar, which makes sensors of varying types for the fishing industry and the military, is developing the very precise and small antennas; filtering out extraneous signals is proving a tough point, Koermer said.

          Testing is taking place on NASA land at Cape Canaveral, near the former home of the Space Shuttle.

          “If we tried to do this study in New England, it might take 20 years to get enough lightning. We’ve had several events in recent weeks that had over 1,500 strikes within 60 miles, in one hour,” said Koermer.

          The Granite State Technology Innovation Grant was matched by a similar amount from Airmar. It’s part of a push by the University of New Hampshire, which runs the Innovation Research Center, to support projects under development in the private sector, turning university smarts into jobs and economic growth.

          The center was created in 1991 and gets $500,000 annually “to increase collaboration, technology development and innovation between New Hampshire businesses and universities.”

          This is the first such grant given in which the principle investigator – funding-speak for the lead science researcher – was from Plymouth State. PSU is often overlooked when considering academic research in New Hampshire but its meteorology department, in particular, has a national reputation for excellence.

          “Nearly every new product Airmahas developed since 1982 has reached commercialization, even recently through the slow economic recovery,” said Marc Sedam, executive director of the NHIRC, in a press release. “The advanced lightning sensor would further drive the success of Airmar’s existing WeatherStation product line.”

          With any luck, next time we head up to the Whites, I’ll carry a PSU Panther-branded Airmar lightning detector.

          Incidentally, our Mt. Madison experience ended OK. We eventually decided to move on to the AMC Madison hut, rather than abandoning the trail to hide in the trees amid the cold rain.

          Looking back, it was a good choice, because while lots of people have died by hypothermia in the White Mountains, to my surprise, nobody has ever been killed by lightning there.

          Milford-Based Manufacturer Receives Technology Grant

          August 22nd, 2013 by Lynn

            AIRMAR Technology Corporation has been awarded the grant.

            Posted by Michael Ryan (Editor) , August 22, 2013 at 05:42 AM
             

            A Milford-based manufacturer of electronic sensors is working with Plymouth State University Professor of Meteorology James Koermer to develop a portable lightning sensor.

            According to a report, AIRMAR Technology Corporation has been awarded a Granite State Technology Innovation Grant from the New Hampshire Innovation Research Center (NHIRC).
             
            “Independent testing at a university is invaluable to verify the feasibility of this type of new product,” said Kenneth Rolt, chief scientist at AIRMAR. “The funding provided by NHIRC gives us access to university resources to evaluate the performance and accuracy of the sensor using ground truth equipment and measurement tools are essential to success. The results, if favorable, will be the accuracy selling point that positions us as the leader in meteorological sensors.”

            According to Koermer, AIRMAR “knows the market is ready for a low-cost stand-alone portable sensor that would fill the permanent or temporary need for airports, meteorology and forecasting, transportation, agriculture and other affected industries and activities that need accurate lightning detection.”

            A request for proposals is now open and will fund 12-month projects beginning January 1, 2014. To learn more about the NHIRC and how to apply for funding, visit http://www.nhirc.unh.edu.

             

             
             

            Linwood sixth graders visit PSU as Part of Kids2College Program

            December 24th, 2012 by Heather

              Linwood sixth graders visit PSU as Part of Kids2College Program

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