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  University of Central Florida Summer 2008

Hurricane! computer game to hit Tampa, FL science museum

Researchers here have wrapped up a four-year $365K tasking from the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University to create an interactive game that shows how hurricanes form and illustrates their destructive power. NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) sponsored the research.

A version of the game Hurricane! is part of the Tampa, FL Museum of Science and Industry's "Disasterville" exhibit that illuminates the science behind weather-related natural disasters.

Hurricane! users can create weather conditions to see how they influence the track of a storm. They also can "build" houses of various materials to see the result of high winds on different construction methods. The program shows a hurricane's effect on urban and rural construction and how proper use of trees and other landscaping can help prevent damage.

The Hurricane! exhibit is scheduled to travel to the National Science Center of Trinidad & Tobago followed by a five-year tour of that island's schools to educate the citizenry on hurricane disaster planning.

In its most robust form Hurricane! runs on a high performance gaming computer, but IST developers also created a version that runs on PCs most often found in school classrooms. The game was designed to fit into a two- to five-day middle school weather curriculum.

About 15 students employed at IST worked on this project. Modeling & Simulation Graduate Program student Dezhi Liao developed and tested physics-based rules for the game and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the project. Another graduate student, Bob Manavi produced his master's thesis from his research. Several other graduate students worked on Hurricane! on the way toward their Ph.D.

Glenridge Middle School (Orange County, FL) art teacher Mrs. Poppy Kincaid arranged for field testing at her school of the first museum exhibit.

UCF Robotics Club takes top prize at Autonomous Surface Vehicle meet

Bringing home $8,000 in prize money was only part of the satisfaction. UCF's Robotics club rejoiced in the results of 10 months of planning, building, programming and testing.

AUSV The surface vehicle (watercraft) competition, staged in San Diego by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), is a relatively new category. Last year, UCF participating for the first time in a demonstration category, was the only team to complete the obstacle course. At this first official competition for surface vehicles UCF went up against more difficult challenges, including channel navigation, rendevous, docking and object recovery. Planning for the August 7 - 9, 2008 competition began during Fall of 2007.

"Son of a Boatname," UCF Robotics Club's 2008 Unmanned Surface Vehicle entry in the Autonomous Vehicle Competition sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and Office of Naval Research.

Teams from Florida schools Embry-Riddle University, Florida Atlantic University and UCF competed against Ecole de Technologie Superieure (Canada), the University of Michigan and Villanova University (PA). Unmanned Systems cover

Cover material
SOAB's successes netted a cover picture (right) and two-page story in the September issue of Unmanned Systems, AUVSI's magazine for the unmanned systems community. See the recent online results here.

Students Chris Bunty, Ross Kerley, Jonathan Mohlenhoff, Cassondra Puklavage and Gary Stein saw the project to its successful completion. "Son of a Boatname" is a 40-inch long and 36-inch wide platform for propulsion system, water cannon, GPS compass, adjustable camera and software. At roughly 30 lbs., it was the lightest vehicle in the competition. With the exception of the hulls, which the team purchased, all work on the vehicle was completed at the robotics lab at IST.

The UCF Robotics Laboratory is a group of undergraduate and graduate students with a passion for robotics. The group builds advanced autonomous robots for competition and research. Information about many of these projects can found at the lab's website. The laboratory is supervised by IST faculty advisor Daniel Barber. A subunit of the lab, the Robotics Club at UCF is headed by Gary Stein. The autonomous robotics teams are currently working on ground, underwater, surface, and aerial vehicles.

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