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Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere Engineering Research Center

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Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA)  (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

CASA , the center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere, is a multi-sector partnership among academia, industry, and government dedicated to engineering revolutionary weather-sensing networks. These innovative networks will save lives and property by detecting the region of the lower atmosphere currently below conventional radar range - mapping storms, winds, rain, temperature, humidity, and the flow of airborne hazards.

CASA is a prestigious National Science Foundation Engineering Center with over $40 million in federal, university, industry, and state funding. The Center brings together a multidisciplinary group of engineers, computer scientists, meteorologists, sociologists, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as industry and government partners to conduct fundamental research, develop enabling technology, and deploy prototype engineering systems based on a new paradigm: Distributed Collaborative Adaptive Sensing (DCAS) networks.

CASA's Challenge

Today's weather forecasting and warning systems utilize data from high-power, long-range radars that have limited ability to observe the lower part of the atmosphere because of the Earth's curvature. This means that meteorological conditions in the lower troposphere are under-sampled, leaving us with precious little predicting and detecting capability where most weather forms.

The Solution: DCAS Networks

CASA will overcome the effects of the Earth's curvature and obstructions such as mountains and buildings by deploying low-cost networks of Doppler radars that operate at short range. Installed on existing rooftops and cell towers just a few miles apart, these small radars will communicate with one another and adjust their sensing modes in response to quickly changing weather and user needs - a dramatic change from current technologies. Up-to-the-second radar information will then be transmitted to the people and organizations that make critical decisions about the weather.

CASA's new approach is called DCAS, Distributed Collaborative Adaptive Sensing. Distributed refers to the use of large numbers of small radars, appropriately spaced to overcome the Earth-curvature blockage that limits current approaches. The radars operate collaboratively within a dynamic information technology infrastructure, adapting to changing atmospheric conditions in a manner that meets competing end user needs.

CASA is conducting fundamental research in electromagnetic wave atmosphere interaction, new computing and communication infrastructures to support the DCAS paradigm, and lower atmosphere physics to establish the foundation for a new sensing and predicting paradigm. CASA will also implement scalable prototype test beds in Oklahoma, Houston, and Puerto Rico, in collaboration with industry and government partners and users of weather data.

Education & Outreach

CASA's education and outreach goals are to educate undergraduate and graduate engineering students, K-12 students, and lifelong learners in understanding the complexity and interdisciplinary nature of engineered systems and their impacts on society. In addition, our education programs address the many significant problems related to the paucity of females and minorities in the engineering pipeline. Highlights of our education programs are:

Collaborative PhD Program —CASA is helping to build a new Ph.D. program in Electrical Engineering at core partner University of Puerto Rico–Mayaguez (UPRM), a Hispanic-American serving institution, where no such program exists today. CASA has defined two collaborative Ph.D. programs (between UMass and UPRM, and Colorado State University [CSU] and UPRM) that will enable UPRM students to complete their Ph.D. programs at partner campuses while spending the majority of their time in residence in Puerto Rico engaged in an intensive research experience centered on a CASA test bed.

Multimedia Modules Project —This project uses instructional technology to help overcome the multidisciplinary challenges faced by CASA. A set of CD/DVD-based educational modules have been developed to provide background materials and self-study to a wide audience, ranging from incoming graduate students and faculty to end users, REU students, and K-12 teachers. Modules include video presentations, corresponding PowerPoint slides, and a sophisticated search function. Topics encompass Sensing, Distributing, and Predicting thrusts, End User Integration, Social Response to weather hazards, and end-user training.

REU Program —The CASA Research Experiences for Undergraduates program creates a research experience with a diverse group of undergraduate students in which participants are exposed to research that crosses disciplines and geographical boundaries.

K–12 Summer Content Institute —The Institute is designed to enable 6 th –9 th -grade teachers to deepen their knowledge of concepts and develop hands-on classroom activities with respect to the engineering/technology and earth and space science curriculum frameworks developed by the Massachusetts Department of Education. The Institute will feature lectures by expert faculty, hands-on labs and activities utilizing communications technologies, a field trip, and development and/or review of classroom resources.

CASA Web Site 

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  • Image from a National Science Foundation-funded ERC.
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