NASA LIVE INTERNET COURSE OFFERED
NASA and the University of North Dakota are
collaborating to offer a computerized course in
'telerobotics' -- enabling students to attend virtual
classrooms on the Internet and to earn college credit.
Telerobotics is the operation and control of a robot at some
distance from the workplace.
The experimental course, offered by the university's
Dept. of Space Studies, will run from Jan. 22 through March
26, 1997. More than one hundred students from countries
including England, Australia, Malaysia and Canada will hear
lectures on "Robotic Vision" and "Automating a Dexterous
Robotic Arm" during the course.
"The project is designed to demonstrate a new and unique
distance learning technology model that has not been
attempted at this advanced level for college credit," said
Mark Leon, Information Infrastructure Technology and
Applications (IITA) Deputy Program Manager at NASA's Ames
Research Center, Mountain View, CA. "Our intention is to
present an evaluation of the course at the Internet Society
Conference to be held in Malaysia in June 1997," he said.
"At the end of the course, students in this class will
be allowed to drive a robot at a distance from their remote
sites," Leon added. For the course, registered students will
need at least a 28.8 kbps computer connection to see video
that will feature eight presenters.
Students who wish to receive university credit must
register with the University. For students outside North
Dakota, an enrollment fee of $294.95 is required. Enrollment
deadline is Jan. 22. Registration information can be found at:
"There are a limited number of Real Audio channels and
CU-SeeMe channels and these will be reserved for registered
students," Leon said. Real Audio permits students to hear
live sound via their personal computers that are hooked to
the Internet class. CU-SeeMe is computer software technology
that allows a student to see the professor and others in the
class as well as to see robotic vision with the computer monitor.
"Many others will be able to participate in this course
without registering, although their experience could be
limited if instructional channels are all in use," Leon
added. "Anyone on the Internet, even those with slow speed
connections, can participate," he explained. More
information about how to participate is found at:
"We will be making provisions so that anyone can
participate in the course through such mechanisms as computer
'chat windows,' e-mail and the World Wide Web," Leon said.
Chat windows permit users to submit typed questions as well
as review text being exchanged by other students, the
presenters and the professor.
If there is a high demand for information presented in
the course, a second transmission of the classes will be made
over the Internet. Other topics covered during the course
will include: Remote Science Applications of Robots, Human
Interface for Robotic Control, Elements of Field Robotic
Design, Information Technology, Telemedicine Applications and
Operating a Remotely Operated Vehicle over the Internet. A
final examination also will be given to students via the
World Wide Web.
The project is part of a three year, $170,000 NASA grant
to the university that is funded until 1998. "Under this
grant, we will continue to develop distant learning models,"
Leon said. "So, it is likely that another class will emerge
next semester." The telerobotics course is one of two distant
learning projects that the IITA K-12 is exploring, he added.
The other project is expected to take place in the
continental United States and involves teaching an
IITA is part of a larger government initiative to
accelerate the development, application and transfer of high-
performance technologies to U.S. engineering and science
communities. IITA funds more than 50 different programs.
The goal of IITA is to promote the growth of a National
Information Infrastructure using the vast amount of
information that NASA has acquired since its creation.
Access to this knowledge will allow the public and industry
to contribute to rapid and significant advances in science,
engineering, and technology.
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