Eureka! Day Introduces Girls to Calit2@UCI Research

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

07.19.05 – “Wow, that’s cool!” exclaimed the pony-tailed girl in a red t-shirt as she transferred computer-generated hummingbirds from one habitat to another via tablet PC. Around her at UC Irvine’s Calit2 Building, girls in matching red t-shirts oohed and aahed, clamoring to have a turn.

The group of 60 middle-school aged girls was visiting UCI for Eureka! Day last week with Girls Inc., a national nonprofit youth organization that provides educational outreach to girls from underserved areas. After touring various campus locations Friday morning, they spent the afternoon at Calit2. They visited labs, watched demonstrations and listened to Calit2-affiliated faculty describe their research in an effort to excite them about the opportunities education can provide.

In Prof. Bill Tomlinson’s lab, they transported birds and plants from one computer to another, simulating the construction of natural habitats with his EcoRaft project. Tomlinson asked for their suggestions. “Add deer,” recommended one girl. “And zebras,” said another.

The girls experimented with EcoRaft ...
Motion sensors
and viewed a motion sensor in action.

In other labs, the girls saw earthquake sensors in action, learned about emergency crisis response, and encountered global and coastal water supply issues.

In Prof. Pai Chou’s lab, they examined tiny motion sensors, then jumped up and down and pounded tables while watching the sensors record their movements on a computer. “Do you get paid to do this?” asked one visitor, prompting Chou to explain the concept of research grants to the group.

They also learned about emergency evacuation...
Coastal water
answered questions about water issues
and inspected a network camera.

In a disaster drill simulation that’s a component of the ResCUE project, Network Manager Chris Davison, and graduate students Vidhya Balasubramanian and Dani Massaguer showed them how cameras and computers worked in tandem to track people leaving a damaged building. Then Davison asked for a volunteer to go into the hall, stand with him in front of one of the building’s cameras and wave to the remainder of the group. “Choose me, choose me!” the girls begged, hopping up and down and waving their arms in the air.

Water research was the topic of the two remaining presentations. From graduate students Kristie Franz and Huiling Yuan, the group learned about remote sensing data used to study the effects of climate on the availability of water resources, and the effects of both urban and natural watersheds.

“Who knows what runoff is?” Prof. Stanley Grant asked the group visiting his research presentation, initiating a flurry of raised hands. Grant discussed tidal wetlands, coastal runoff, and resultant pollution in both drinking and ocean water.

When the tours and demonstrations were finished, the girls posed for a group picture on the steps of the Calit2 Building. Asked if they enjoyed the afternoon, they responded resoundingly: “It was cool!”