CI-TEAM Demonstration:  Tsunami Shelter Challenge


Project Summary

The Tsunami Shelter Challenge, a (CyberInfrastructure) CI-TEAM demonstration project aimed at low-income, rural schools serving primarily Hispanic and Native American students has been awarded by NSF.  The two year project which officially begins in January 2007, takes a new approach in delivering knowledge and inquiry-based learning experiences to a broad and diverse set of constituents, making use of innovative software (modeling and visualization) to engage a diverse audience with exciting, highly interactive materials.


The teachers involved in this project will learn CAD (computer aided design, using IronCAD, computational modeling and visualization techniques along with web page design, and video teleconferencing skills.  (Teachers whose computer skills are weak will be given preliminary training in spreadsheets, web searching, and PC operation.)  The CAD skills they learn will be broadly applicable to engineering design, middle school math/geometry, and physical and earth sciences. Using their new skills, the teachers will guide students in the design and testing of a tsunami shelter using computational modeling and visualization.  Their task will be to design a shelter that will withstand the forces that occurred in the Indian Ocean Tsunami (December 2004) and the storm surge produced by Hurricane Katrina (August 2005).  Student teams will be responsible for investigating and designing the shelter, running the simulations, documenting their results, modifying their structure, and repeating the simulation until the shelter is able to withstand both disasters.  They will then use web technology to communicate their results to tsunami researchers and other schools.


The capstone will be the construction of physical models of the students’ shelters for testing at the NEES Tsunami Wave Basin (TWB, located at Oregon State University) in partnership with tsunami researchers.  Students will have the opportunity to see firsthand how their computational models accurately predicted what happens in an experimental lab, as well as observing the fundamental role that CI plays at the TWB.  (The TWB, a NSF NEES facility, has agreed to provide access and technical support for this project as part of its education and outreach program.) 


Intellectual Merit:  CI skills are imperative for tomorrow’s workforce.  One of the most efficient ways increase all students’ CI skills is to enhance their teachers’ skills.  CI is also most engaging when students can see the applicability of CI skills to their lives and the lives of the people around them.  In Oregon and other coastal states, tsunamis and storm surges constitute very real threats, and students living near the coast are aware of the damage they can produce.  This project provides in-depth experiences for both teachers and students in computational modeling and visualization.  It also clearly ties computational modeling to physical reality.


Broader Impact:  The project will bring CI skills, experiences, and knowledge to a broad range of teachers and their students.  The targeted students are from underrepresented ethnic groups and largely rural areas of Oregon.  The materials developed in the project will be available to other CI-TEAM groups and to schools nationwide.  The topical issue of wave damage, particularly the loss of lives due to tsunamis and hurricane surges, will allow students not normally engaged in CI to understand and use it to solve problems related to the safeguarding of human life

Because of the importance of tsunami and hurricane hazards to people around the Pacific Rim, we have also arranged to have the module translated into Spanish and Japanese.  The expense for these collaborations will be borne by our international partners.