iGlobe and MIT awarded grant from

National Science Foundation

The NSF has awarded us a grant to educate students and the public on the climate.  The project begins July 1st.  See the project abstract on the NSF website:


We need your help!

We have established two partnership programs:

  1. Schools

  2. Museums, aquariums and zoos

The audiences for each program are unique.   Adults and children of all ages attend museums, aquariums and zoos, so the presentation must be geared to appeal to each of them.  Additionally, the attention span in these venues is generally limited to a few minutes, though longer presentations are possible.  On the other hand, while schools include students of all ages, they are generally grouped in tight age bands and are committed to a presentation for a longer period of time.

We need schools, museums, aquariums and zoos to provide us with guidance in the design of our integrated flat/spherical model, to present our prototypes to audiences, and to give us feedback from students and guests.  Ultimately, these partners will form a community, sharing content and ideas with each other.  There is no financial commitment to participate as a partner.  All information about the project will be public and we need your design ideas right out of the gate.  If you own an iGlobe product, you will be in a better position to give us feedback on prototypes.   However, we plan to provide demonstrations at various venues, and as partners, you will be invited to attend and provide feedback.

In the beginning, we will keep things simple.  Partnership communication will be by email and Facebook.  Eventually we may develop something more sophisticated through our website, or leverage other social media tools.  With your help, the possibilities are endless. 

Sign up to become part of our experience! 

From the grant proposal…

Project Description

As anthropogenic forcing of climate change becomes one of the critical issues in the 21st century, an educated and informed populace is vitally needed.  Yet our methods for teaching climate processes and the physics, chemistry, and biology of climate change remain constrained by 20th century technology.  We use movies from the internet, but these may not be targeted at the points we wish to make and are still flat representations, limiting our visual vantage point.  Our major visual tools are maps (16th century technology!) but these inevitably present a distorted picture.  While the "is Greenland as big as Africa?" error is obvious, we often do not think about questions such as:

  1. Can we portray the Antarctic circumpolar current in a way which makes both its continuous nature and its connections to the more northward oceans clear?

  2. How do disturbances created by warm Pacific surface water generate disturbances at other latitudes and longitudes?

Additionally, visualizing how synoptic storms in the atmosphere propagate and develop is hampered by apparent size and shape changes, by crossing map edges, and by the inability to see connections around the Earth at different scales ("teleconnections" in atmospheric literature).  Very few educators have access to models which can illustrate processes or the ability to explore the output from large coupled models in order to explain the interconnections between the atmosphere and the ocean.

(Co-founder Matt Lalley)

We believe that using a physical sphere as a display, one students can walk around to see different features and can control with a familiar tablet interface, is a much better way to teach the material.  It will permit teachers to show:

  1. a distortion-free portrayal of high latitude climate, be it the ice caps, the size of cyclones/anticyclones, or the increase in high latitude warming.

  2. global responses to sea level increase (future) and decrease (ice ages)

  3. an overlay of different data sets (whether from models or data collections) as chosen by the teacher and students to show the connections among them (e.g., ecosystems and ocean flow patterns)

  4. the propagation of large-scale disturbances (synoptic weather systems, ocean eddies) around the planet: even in graduate courses, we rarely talk about the sphere, but instead use a projection onto a tangent plane or cylinder with terms being ignored 

  5. the development of disturbances near the equator which are especially complex, are generally given short shrift, and yet are a crucial part of el Nino

  6. illustrations of dynamical analogies between Earth's atmosphere (and ocean) and other planets

  7. animation of time-series research datasets

In addition, of course, it provides a superb tool for outreach…visually striking but immediately understandable.  The viewers can begin to understand the astronaut's sense of awe at seeing the Earth from space, can begin to feel the interconnectness of the world's atmosphere, ocean, and ecosystems, and begin to realize the importance of understanding climate science and climate change.

Part 1 – Identification and Significance of the Innovation

Our primary innovation is giving teachers and students unprecedented freedom to explore environmental data, from both data centers such as the National Climate Data Center and from general circulation models such as the MITgcm.  By allowing users to import, customize, or construct data preprocessing, elements of the control interface, and data display styles, we will provide an easy route to matching the spherical and flat displays to the particular lesson plan.  At the same time, one can break out of a planned sequence to delve deeper into the information or even import new data when questions arise. 

The use of the spherical globe provides an immediate, intuitive way of presenting spatial information accurately while the flat panel can show details, time histories, latitude-depth sections, etc.  The ability to explore the information, to ask questions and seek information which helps answer the questions (and to understand the answer) makes the proposed project a powerful tool for learning.

Part 2 – Background and Phase I Technical Objectives

Our technical goals are to devise a hardware-software system which provides access to a wide (and not pre-specified) variety of climate data and models.  This includes both cutting-edge research models such as the MITgcm and simplified models that can be displayed in real-time and with which the teachers and students can experiment.  While our emphasis is on interactive exploration, the system will allow more scripted packages to be developed and shared.  When synchronized with audio and text, these will provide a superb outreach tool.

To accomplish our educational goals, we need:

  1. integrated dual displays on the sphere and the screen, under the control of a tablet hosting the interface (figure 2, figure 3)

  2. the presentation of multiple four-dimensional climate data sets and model output with overlays of several fields using different styles (e.g., flow vectors on top of colored sea-surface temperature)

  3. interactive exploration on the sphere with the ability to move through time and vertical level

  4. flat-panel exploration of sections, time-series, zoomed areas, ... with the ability to select positions with the cursor on the sphere

  5. a design for the data flow and interface which allows ready incorporation of new elements and approaches.  These routines could be downloaded or written as needed

  6. the flexibility for a teacher to select data sets from any server, customize interface according lesson plans, customize movies, record and playback sequences (with an editable script)


Webmaster: Matt Lalley Copyright © 2012 iGlobe Inc. All rights reserved. Various images copyright iGlobe Inc NOAA and NASA