Number 40, Spring 2003

Wires buzz with bilateral learning

Anyone measuring traffic on Internet2 over the past year would have seen a huge spike in usage.

Eighteen researchers from UC and Mexico have been burning up the wires to implement projects funded last year to explore and enhance Internet2 connections between Mexico and California academic researchers.

Nine research projects, funded jointly by UC MEXUS and CONACYT, produced a series of high-level "conversations," none of which would have taken place without these seed grants, said Javier Mendietta, director general of CICESE, where one of the Mexican nodes connects Mexico to the UC system via UC San Diego. A February workshop, designed to present preliminary results from the grants, showcased an array of joint classes, research projects, and real and virtual laboratories capable of facilitating experiments from multiple locations.

The team of Jorge Preciado Velasco, CICESE, and Van Whiting and Wayne Cornelius, UC San Diego, is poised to launch into development of simultaneous translation and live lab experimentation. These functions eventually will be integrated into their on-line research symposia using an Internet2-based system, VirtualCal. They plan to make their system available to all Mexican Internet2 users.

Paul Singh, UC Davis; Jorge Welti and Enrique Palou, Universidad de las Américas, are gearing up to add more real-time lab experiments for remote users, after finding success with the eight they already developed.

Luis Villarreal, UC Irvine, and Hugo Barrera, Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, are expanding gene databases for agriculture, medicine and crime detection, creating and disseminating Internet2-based courses, and planning new collaborative research projects.

Most grant recipients have created educational options that will far outlive the original collaboration. The online agronomy course designed by Juan Jiménez, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, and Miguel Altieri, UC Berkeley, will be offered to other institutions. Robot simulations using the MIRO middleware of Nalini Venkatasubramanian, UC Irvine, and Alfredo Weitzenfeld, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, will be available to Internet2 users worldwide.

The ability to perform complex tasks on Internet2 by splitting the workload among remote computers users intrigued several teams. José Torres Jiménez, ITESM-Morelos, and Allen Van Gelder, UC Santa Cruz, streamlined such tasks as mold design for manufacturing production. Isaac D. Scherson, UC Irvine, and Andrei Tchernykh, CICESE, created a program that would simultaneously test simulations of highly complex systems, thus dramatically reducing the amount of time needed. The research teams of Arturo Molina, CSIM-ITESM, and Paul Wright, UC Berkeley, designed and tested products and their production.

Binational instruction involved cross-cultural as well as linguistic issues. Richard P. Duran, UC Santa Barbara, and Rosa G. Montes, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, set out to examine the binational, cultural and linguistic issues involved with learning. But the UCB/ITESM class on engineering design and the UADY/UC Davis agronomy project found an unplanned challenge in the lack of common cultural and educational expectations.

None of the projects ends with the completion of the grant work. Each team has either created educational and research tools for continued use, or their work has lead to new exploration.