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ECU's Hi-tech "ROVER" van educational

GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Sept. 24, 2008)   —   From climate change and hurricane awareness to water quality, children across the region are learning the ins and outs of weather science, thanks to a new high-tech van at ECU, dubbed the RENCI ROVER.

Filled with laptops, GIS software, and its own weather and radio stations, the ROVER (RENCI Outreach Vehicle for Education and Research) is the key element of the outreach component of ECU’s Renaissance Computing Institute/Center for Coastal Systems Informatics and Modeling – RENCI/CSIM, for short. It’s also slated to play a role in emergency situations, providing mobile, free-standing power and communication capabilities.

Michelle Covi, RENCI@ECU’s new outreach coordinator and science education specialist, already has dozens of school programs and community events across the region lined up through this fall and into 2009. Presentation topics include: hurricane awareness, weather and climate change, coastal habitat preservation and water quality.

“With the ROVER, we can bring a field trip into the classroom,” Covi said. “We go outside to the ROVER to observe and measure the current weather or water quality and investigate hurricanes in a simulated emergency scenario. Students can make real-life connections to science and technology.”

The van will be on display at RENCI@ECU’s Open House Oct. 2. The event will showcased the research being conducted at the facility, as well as the ROVER and the Visualization Wall. RENCI/CSIM is part of a $1.7 million grant from the Chapel Hill-based Renaissance Computing Institute. Its mission is to support research and outreach that improves understanding of how geographic features, biological coastal processes, and human activity interact and affect the environment, economy, and social systems of North Carolina’s coastal region.

In addition to its educational components, the Rover’s free-standing server, generator, and radio would be useful during an emergency. The radio is operated by Paul Fletcher, a professor at the Brody School of Medicine and amateur radio operator with years of emergency response radio experience. It has both broadcasting and receiving capabilities.

Donna Kain, RENCI@ECU’s Outreach Director and professor of English, has made connections with emergency managers across eastern North Carolina. Plans are underway to make the ROVER a part of the network of emergency response vehicles in the event of a hurricane or other coastal catastrophe.

For more information about RENCI@ECU, or its schools outreach program, visit or contact Michelle Covi at 252-737-1773.


Contact: Michelle Covi | 252-737-1773