Linking Tennessee Students to a World of Information

Tennessee students can travel the world on their fingertips while never leaving the room using Internet programs supported by DOE and managed by ORNL.

Students at Central High School in Wartburg, Tennessee, have access to a world of information through the DOE-funded Oak Ridge Educational Network and the Adventures in Supercomputing programs. Left row, from front: Casey Will, Heidi Obidzinski, Matthew Yu; right row, from front: Billy Brasel, Jamie Jones, and David Staten (teacher). Photograph by Curtis Boles.

Through the Oak Ridge Educational Network (OREN) and the Adventures in Supercomputing (AiS) programs, DOE and ORNL have helped open computer windows in 59 Tennessee schools to a world of learning on the Internet. These programs help students search the world in a few seconds to answer seemingly unsolvable questions, such as tricky calculus problems. From kindergartners to seniors in high school, students can easily discuss politics with students and professionals in other countries, approximate the potential crop growth in Tennessee, or pinpoint the year in which Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity.

In rural settings, students have a
hard time getting information.

In rural settings, students have a hard time getting the type and amount of information that is available on the Internet, says David Staten, who teaches computing and math at Wartburg Central High School, which has about 450 students in grades 9 through 12. "Students in rural areas like Wartburg don't have access to extensive research libraries like those at the University of Tennessee, where hundreds of resources are kept current," he says. "However, with the Internet they can now go around the world without leaving the classroom."

Since Wartburg Central students have had
access to the Internet, their interest
in computers has increased.

Since Wartburg Central students have had access to the Internet, their interest in computers has increased and the school's computer class has tripled in size, Staten said. Wartburg Central High School draws students from one of the lowest per capita income areas in Tennessee. The high school was selected to participate in the AiS program, and DOE provided computers for the school.

The AiS program is aimed at cultivating the interests of minority, female, and economically disadvantaged high school students in mathematics, science, and computing. The program simulates scientific experiments, which are safer and less costly than doing experiments in a laboratory. AiS students use high-performance computers, graphic workstations, and networks to conduct experiments that can be too complex or dangerous to study in a laboratory. For example, students can easily perform simulated crash tests to understand crash dynamics without the costs of using real cars. Supercomputing can also help predict the spread of fire or the path of a tornado.

Unlike AiS, OREN is a wide area network that connects elementary, middle, and senior high schools in Oak Ridge and more than a dozen counties, primarily in East and Middle Tennessee, to Internet tools. These help students explore physics, chemistry, art, and many other subjects that they ordinarily would not be exposed to until high school. OREN provides all Internet services, including global electronic mail, network news services, World Factbook, weather maps, and many other resources in science, mathematics, social sciences, and humanities.

"The scientific world increasingly relies on Internet computer tools to do research, solve mathematical problems, and simulate and model science experiments," says ORNL Director AlvinTrivelpiece. "By linking schools to the Internet, ORNL can help students get excited about learning new ways to analyze scientific data or write computer programs. The Internet will revolutionize the way students work and think by helping them tap into resources from around the world."

Since October 1991, DOE and ORNL have invested $2.6 million in computers, software, training, and networks to provide the AiS and OREN to Tennessee school programs. Schools in 15 counties and two cities are connected to the Internet through hubs in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge. Participating Tennessee counties are Anderson, Campbell, Davidson, Gibson, Giles, Grundy, Knox, Lawerence, Madison, Monroe, Morgan, Murfreesboro, Rhea, Roane, and Union. Connected cities are Oak Ridge and Memphis. A dial-up modem pool can be provided so that students and teachers with home computers can connect after school hours.

For each AiS school, DOE and ORNL helped provide four Macintosh computers with color monitors and printers, training for teachers at a Summer Institute, experienced consultants to provide support, and high-performance computing with a parallel computer on loan from nCUBE Inc. At the 2-week Summer Institute, teachers receive hands-on training to guide students in programming solutions to scientific problems. At the end of the session, teachers get software applications and materials to take back to their respective schools.

"Getting Internet to our schools has been one of the most successful outreach programs to come from the Laboratory," says Dr. John Wooten, ORNL's program administrator for Educational Technology. "It is a crucial step in integrating and moving technology forward into the classroom."

OREN furnishes dial-up connections to at least 1200 Tennessee users. Through OREN, the Oak Ridge Regional Science Education Center was equipped with modern Sun Sparc-10 UNIX-based computer workstations and phone lines from ORNL for hands-on science experiments and full Internet access. At the Science Education Center, students can use modern telecomputing for science data collection and observation.

Through the OREN program, DOE and ORNL have helped to train more than 1000 teachers in computer technology. The program has also provided free, advanced computer training for more than 300 teachers and students at the Saturday Academy for Computing and Mathematics (SACAM). Here, ORNL volunteers teach students to use computing and mathematical tools to solve problems, such as determining sequences of DNA bases in the human genome--information that could lead to a cure of genetically linked diseases.

In addition to OREN, the AiS program has connected 15 high schools, or more than 3000 enrolled students, to supercomputing programs. This year, DOE and ORNL are trying to expand the program into junior high schools.
--April Davidson

Virtual Textbook Popular with Internet Users

Editor's note: Here is a condensed version of a newspaper column by Alvin Trivelpiece, ORNL director.

Our Computational Science Education Project
is the first-ever virtual textbook.

URL: Point your browser to this address on the fantastic information resource known as the Internet and you will call up ORNL's popular "textbook" that has never been printed by a book publisher. Our Computational Science Education Project (CSEP) has been seen by more than a quarter of a million people, but you can't find it at the local bookstore. CSEP is the first-ever "virtual textbook," which exists only in that electronic information medium we call Cyberspace. It is currently used at more than 20 universities.

This project was the brainchild of the DOE's Office of Energy Research, and the scientists and computer experts at ORNL took the lead role in creating CSEP. Its home is a computer in ORNL's Physics Division, but the usage has been so great that one computer can't handle the demand.

Ten "mirror" computers around the world now contain CSEP. This backup system exists at Vanderbilt University, Colorado State University, the University of Kentucky, Drexel University (Philadelphia), Tampere University of Technology (Finland), National University of Singapore, the University of Frankfurt (Germany), the University of Giessen (Germany), Universitat Tübingen (Germany), and Edinburgh University (United Kingdom).

A normal textbook limits your information search to only those words on the printed pages. However, our computer-based book allows you to travel to many other information resources with just the click of a mouse. You might start on that computer in the Physics Division at ORNL, see something that grabs your attention, and click into material residing in a computer at Oxford University or Yale. You might wonder how scientists in other disciplines are able to apply approaches you read about in CSEP, so this "virtual textbook" makes it possible for you to cross disciplines.

The long list of this textbook's authors includes such experts as the late Chris Bottcher and Michael R. Strayer of ORNL, Richard C. Allen of Sandia National Laboratories, Phillip Bording of the University of Tulsa, William Martin of the University of Michigan, and Geoffrey Parks of Cambridge University. Verena M. Umar of Vanderbilt University is editor for contributions to the book. Each article is reviewed by an expert before it is accepted.

If your interest in computational science is narrow and if you're in a hurry, you can search the electronic textbook by keyword. Let's say you're interested in parallel computing. If you type "parallel computing" in the keyword search area, almost immediately you will be shown a list of more than 100 documents containing that term.

Nothing like CSEP had ever been done before. CSEP is, if not the best example, then certainly one of the best examples of how the Internet already is having a major impact on the dissemination of information.

Where to?

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