Adams makes French connection between countries, science, climate, classes
05/03/2006

At the same moment on Tuesday, May 9, Dr. Paul Adams will begin teaching a high school class at a French space agency site in Toulouse, France, at 4 p.m. and an advanced physics class of about 20 seniors at Hays High School, room 124, at 9 a.m.

Kan-ed in Topeka will make the first call to France, then make the Internet connection to the classroom in Hays, which will be using equipment from Fort Hays State University.

It will be both a culmination and, Adams hopes, a beginning.

Adams, Anschutz professor of education and professor of physics at FHSU, has been involved for about three years with a joint project involving NASA and the French space agency, CNES. The project, or mission, is Cloud Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations. The acronym is rearranged slightly so that it can be pronounced and printed as CALIPSO. Lidar is another acronym, standing for "light direction and ranging" and is a laser remote sensing technique, also called laser radar.

Adams' role is educational public outreach, basically "to connect classrooms to the mission." In his first year he met some French teachers who saw some of Adams' material. They wanted the same kind of thing for their country.

"As a result, I was invited to come over to France by the education director of the French space agency, Danielle DeStaerke," said Adams.

Adams left early May 3. He will conduct a workshop for about 30 teachers from the Toulouse, France, area from May 6-8.

The Atlantic-spanning class on May 9 -- covering climate related topics -- began as a suggestion from Adams to his wife, Cheryl Shepherd-Adams, physics teacher at Hays High, that she contact DeStaerke about arranging a video conference between the classes.

A month of planning and a recent test later, and it is almost time for class.

Dr. Loretta Dorn, associate professor of chemistry at FHSU, will serve as translator in the Hays classroom. "She speaks French and 'scientific' French," said Adams.

Also assisting here will be two student members of the Student National Science Teachers Association, said Adams. They are Eryn Norton, Hays sophomore, and Sarah Fast, Salina junior. "It is an opportunity for them to see how science is taught in a different country and a different culture."

That is also the value that Shepherd-Adams sees in the process.

"What do I want my students to gain from this? I'd like them to gain an understanding that science is done all over the world, and that scientists worldwide use essentially the same operating rules when conducting their research," she said. "I'm looking forward to watching their interactions with the French students. Perhaps they'll realize that adolescent experiences can transcend national boundaries."

Ron Hart, IPTV (Internet protocol television) coordinator for FHSU's Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning Technology, has been point man for FHSU's end of the technological link, working with Hays High's Jeff Bitikofer.

The IP video conferencing connection, said Hart, will provide "full screen, full motion," which means that the image will be full screen, not a small window, and the motion, relayed at about 30 frames per second, will be natural, not jerky and choppy. The screen at Hays High will be projected, so the screen size should be in the 8- to 10-foot range.

Kan-ed in Topeka, said Hart, is a bridge between the older ISDN protocol used in France and the IP video conferencing technology used at FHSU. Kan-ed is also paying the line charges for the connection to France, he said.

For Kan-ed and himself, said Adams, this is a "proof of concept" opportunity.

"I'm hoping this is a first step," he said. "I have a grant pending for atmospheric research and environmental studies. We're checking this out, and if it works, we'll be able to ramp up from there," he said.

Success in this venture, he said, would probably help with future funding, also. A test conducted a week ago was successful.

"It is an opportunity to bring different people and cultures together in an educational format dealing with a common issue, which is the global climate," said Adams.
"Bottom line: If it connects the kids we have today with others around the world, that in itself makes it worthwhile."


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