RENCI at ECU's ROVER Heads Out

Greenville, NC
September 18, 2008

By Miriam Wildeman

Michelle Covi, RENCI at ECU outreach coordinator, preps the ROVER for a trip to teach Johnston County second graders about the weather.

At ECU, a newly spiffed up and staffed ROVER is fulfilling its potential on all fronts: educational, research, and emergency response. Thanks to the work and expertise of staff and faculty at the RENCI Engagement Center at ECU Center for Coastal Systems Informatics and Modeling (RENCI/C-SIM), the ROVER has a busy travel schedule this fall.

With the addition of Outreach Coordinator Michelle Covi to its staff, RENCI at ECU is sending the newly outfitted ROVER on educational missions throughout eastern North Carolina. Covi has extensive experience in science education at the kindergarten through university levels and beyond to the community at large. She comes to ECU from Normal, Illinois, where she taught college biology and directed a nonprofit organization, using state, private, and local grants to develop outreach programs on ecological awareness for schools and businesses.

In eastern North Carolina, she will be bringing the ROVER to schools and community events, offering presentations on hurricane awareness, weather and climate change, coastal habitat preservation, and water quality. She has already obtained a mobile weather station for the ROVER and arranged a full slate of engagements at schools in Pitt, Johnston, and Beaufort Counties extending throughout the fall and into 2009.

Because Covi knows firsthand the importance of supplemental science education—field trips from her native Baltimore to nearby woods and marshes sparked her own fascination with coastal ecosystems—she is excited to bring "virtual field trips" to a new generation of schoolchildren.

The ROVER now boasts custom interior furnishings including desk space and seating, lighting, and built-in equipment storage. Its more sophisticated equipment includes a server loaded with GIS and other software, an array of laptops, a generator, and a comprehensive radio system with two antennas capable of receiving and broadcasting at all frequencies.

Paul Fletcher—checking radios in the ROVER—leads RENCI at ECU efforts to incorporate the ROVER into emergency communication efforts in Pitt County.

The radio operates on either electrical or battery power so that it can broadcast under emergency conditions from almost any location. Paul Fletcher, Associate Professor at the Brody School of Medicine and an experienced amateur radio operator, serves as RENCI at ECU's radio resource person. Fletcher has for many years participated in emergency response with others in the amateur radio community.

Through her work on hazard communication, Outreach Director Donna Kain has made connections with emergency managers across eastern North Carolina, and plans are underway to make the ROVER an integral part of the network of emergency response vehicles in the event of a hurricane or other coastal catastrophe.

For more information about RENCI at ECU's school outreach program and a schedule of upcoming events, click here or contact Michelle Covi at or 252-737-1773.

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