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Formal Unveiling of ODU's OmniGlobe Will Be March 22

De Paor at controls of OmniGlobe

The OmniGlobe, a spherical display of remarkable versatility, will be formally introduced at an unveiling event at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, in the instrument's display area in the first floor lobby of the Old Dominion University Oceanography and Physical Sciences Building.

ODU President John Broderick will welcome guests to the unveiling, and the public is invited. (See below for a link to RSVP). A reception will follow in the nearby Pretlow Planetarium.

The $150,000 OmniGlobe can take spectators on an interplanetary trip to Jupiter, send them via time travel back to the early Earth, or even zip them around the modern-day globe to pinpoint the fieldwork being done by ODU researchers.

Thanks to two projectors and a hemispheric mirror inside the five-foot globe, and to an unlimited amount of digital imagery that can be provided by the instrument's computer component, the OmniGlobe can portray spherical objects ranging from the Earth and its moon to Jupiter and its moons.


Furthermore, the instrument can show how the surface of the Earth looked six or 60 or 600 million years ago. With a flick of a switch the OmniGlobe becomes a very colorful display of varying water temperatures in the Earth's oceans. Or it can provide a backdrop for geological lessons in plate tectonics.   


"The OmniGlobe is an important component of a broader initiative in geospatial interdisciplinary studies - called GEOIDS - that we see as an education/research vehicle that can forge links across departments, colleges and disciplines," said Richard Zimmerman, a professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences who helped to bring the instrument to ODU.


Zimmerman worked with Declan De Paor, associate professor of  physics and the director of the Pretlow Planetarium, to see the project from planning stages to installation. Chandra de Silva, the former dean of the College of Arts and Letters who now serves as an assistant to the provost and professor of history, also was part of the team that brought the OmniGlobe to campus.


"We realized that the OmniGlobe could serve as an educational/outreach component of the overall GEOIDS project, which was mainly research and advanced education oriented," said De Paor, whose programs at the planetarium bring school children to the campus during the school year. "The idea with OmniGlobe is to teach undergraduate students about the Earth in an immersive and kinesthetic environment, to allow browsing by students and visitors in an informal, museum-style setting and to highlight ODU research around the world by creating custom content."


The office of President Broderick, other offices of the ODU administration and deans of several of ODU's colleges contributed funds for the purchase, set-up and maintenance of the OmniGlobe.


Zimmerman said the OmniGlobe can be useful to at least a dozen of ODU's academic departments: Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Physics, Biological Sciences, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Civil Engineering Technology, History, Political Science and Geography, Sociology and Criminal Justice, Urban Studies and Public Administration, STEM Education and Professional Studies and Community and Environmental Health.


Newly installed for this semester, and with its initial computer programming still being done, the instrument is already accommodating 10 laboratory sections per week, mostly in oceanography and astronomy courses. Another big user of the OmniGlobe will be faculty and students in Geographic Information Systems.


At the first astronomy lab, "we had a problem," De Paor related with a smile. It seems that he and Zimmerman had allowed space for an estimated 30 students at a time to gather around the globe. "But we found out that casual passers-by were curious about the globe and joined the class, doubling its size."


Eventually, De Paor said, he believes the uses will be many, with the instrument serving as a teaching aide for global business, or perhaps even for visual arts.  He also said that student groups and other public audiences coming to the planetarium will routinely be invited next door to see an OmniGlobe demonstration.


"It will be popular as a museum-quality instrument," De Paor added. "I believe the OmniGlobe is unique in the region, although there are other illuminated globes at Nauticus and the Virginia Aquarium in Virginia Beach. These other globes are not quite as crisp or as accessible as our globe." OmniGlobe is manufactured by Arc Sciences.


C.J. Oakley, assistant director of Pretlow Planetarium, is managing the new instrument, and Mladen Dordevic, a graduate student in geophysics, is responsible for the computer programming that can create custom content requested by faculty members.


RSVP to the unveiling event

This article was posted on: March 21, 2011

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