Visualization Laboratory outreach

CISL’s Scientific Visualization Services Group (SVSG) operates the VisLab, a visual computing center that is used to conduct many of CISL’s education, outreach, and collaboration efforts. The 1,000-square-foot facility supports video conferencing technologies, data analysis and visualization, and theater-style presentations in a widescreen, high-resolution, 3D format. The facility is equipped with a collaborative touch-screen interface, a high-definition 3D 1920×1080-resolution active stereo projector, and a 12×7-foot screen. This system displays imagery and presentation materials simultaneously from multiple sources including user laptops, digital media systems, and high-definition video conferencing platforms.

Hurricane Odile simulation
Hurricane Odile swept across the Baja California Peninsula in September 2014 leaving behind widespread damage, flooding, and power outages. It reached category 4 intensity before weakening as it tracked along the length of the peninsula. VisLab staff produced this visualization from data generated by Hurricane Weather Research Forecast (HWRF), an advanced hurricane prediction system developed by NOAA. VisLab visualizations such as this are regularly used for demos, presentations, and on social media to help inform, educate, and share information about NCAR research and collaborations.

The VisLab serves as an important resource for CISL’s education and outreach efforts, fulfilling the strategic action item for CISL to tell NCAR’s story to the world. VisLab activities serve hundreds of staff and visitors each year and include support for advanced collaboration environments that foster geographically distributed research and communication. The VisLab operates a sizable outreach program that provides 3D presentations to a wide range of student, governmental, and scientific visitors. The VisLab’s implementation and support of collaborative technologies help enhance communication while minimizing the need for travel by geographically distributed teams collaborating on cross-institutional projects. The VisLab is also routinely used as an important presentation venue by UCAR staff for general meetings, conferences, and classes.

In FY2015 the VisLab continued serving as a venue for demos to many high-level visitors and as a meeting space for conferences and classes to help engage a broad and diverse community, increasing awareness and understanding of science, high-performance computing (HPC), and environmental issues. The Scientific Visualization Services Group (SVSG) supported approximately 160 meetings and demos in the CISL VisLab to over 2,100 users including Congressional staffers, NSF officials, corporate and research representatives, university students, and international visitors from Mexico, China, Barbados, Iran, and Panama, to name a few. Collaborative technologies and tools for video, web, and telephone conferences were used to host over 30 HPC and NCL training classes and webinars, connect remote participants at NCAR campuses and at domestic and international institutions, and provide AV and editing support for online access to class recordings. SVSG partnered with the UCAR Center for Science Education to provide 3D demos to hundreds of K-12 visitors, helping to educate and inspire young students about the Earth sciences, scientific research, and HPC.

Additionally, SVSG continued to develop scientific visualizations to help communicate NCAR research and to provide engaging and educational material for presentations and publication on social media. Visualizations published this fiscal year have been viewed on YouTube over 115,000 times and have been seen in at least 190 countries.

This project is supported by NSF Core funds with supplemental funding provided by NCAR’s Research Application Laboratory (RAL).