October 18, 2000

UC San Diego Wireless Network Project Collaborates with Pala Band of Indians for Education Opportunities

Located at the foot of Palomar Mountain in east San Diego County, the Pala Indian Reservation is home to 600 tribal members—including more than 150 children who attend elementary school on the reservation. Until last month, the tribe could only dream of access to high-speed Internet connectivity; however, collaboration with a research project at UC San Diego, which is funded by the National Science Foundation turned a dream into reality. UC San Diego researchers recently implemented Phase I of the educational portion of the High-Performance Wireless Research and Education Network, and the Pala Tribe is already developing educational programs to take advantage of the new technology.

"By providing the Pala Learning Center with high-speed Internet access, UCSD has opened up an incredible amount of opportunities for our tribe and its future generations," said Robert Smith, Pala Tribal Chairman. "We will begin classes to teach both the older and younger generations of our tribe—so that they can become more familiar with the many opportunities available to them through the Internet."

Pala Indian Reservation connection

The above grid antennas, each measuring 24" by 40", provide the Pala Learning Center with wireless high-speed Internet access. The antenna on the roof of the Pala Learning Center communicates with an identical unit located atop Mount Woodson via an intermediary relay point on Pala Mountain.

As Smith suggests, one of the ways in which the Pala people are using the high-speed Internet connectivity is to educate their children. Doretta Musick, coordinator of the Pala Learning Center, is working closely with the San Diego Supercomputer Center to develop courses that will allow the students to make good use of the Internet and foster their educational objectives. "The kids are excited to learn more about the Internet, how it can help them complete their homework, and also learn new skills," said Musick. "Before we had the high-speed access, we had a dial-up connection for one of our computers, but that really limited what we could offer the students. For instance, now multiple kids are able to simultaneously look at Web sites with large images and multimedia files. It makes a world of difference for them to be able to finally experience virtual museums, libraries, and even compare their own Pala culture with those of other American Indian tribes."

Another use of the Pala connectivity involves the federally funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program that serves several tribes in San Diego county. While TANF already provides needy families with basic computer classes, several of the recipients are interested in more advanced courses. "Along with Doretta's program, our group is also working with the San Diego Supercomputer Center to create a series of classes for TANF recipients," said Pam Arviso, a local TANF training contractor. "I have been working with many of these tribes for more than 20 years, and opportunities like the UCSD project do not come along very often. TANF is excited about offering more educational opportunities to the recipients, and we feel extremely fortunate to be a collaborator within this project."

The HPWREN project team recently introduced several representatives of local Native American Indian reservations to SDSC and its resources.

Arviso said that the TANF program not only serves the Pala tribe, but also other nearby tribes—including the Rincon and La Jolla reservations. Both reservations are currently being considered as future deployment sites for wireless connectivity by the UC San Diego researchers. When the wireless connectivity is established on Rincon and La Jolla reservations, their residents will also be able to use the access for TANF classes and classes at their Education Centers, which serve K-12 children.

The educational outreach efforts affiliated with the High-Performance Wireless Research and Education Network are only one component of a broader spectrum of activities. The research and science focus of the project is also providing field researchers and remote laboratories with high-speed Internet connectivity. One such recipient of the high speed connection will be the San Diego State University's Mount Laguna Observatory. "SDSU also has plans to build a large telescope, and the high-performance Internet connection makes the possibility of remote observing very attractive to potential academic partners outside of California who might help build the telescope," said Paul Etzel, director of the Mount Laguna Observatory and chair of the SDSU Astronomy Department.

Similar applications for the wireless connectivity project involve geophysical research (i.e., earthquake sensors) being conducted by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, as well as ecological studies taking place through the SDSU field station programs at the Sky Oaks Field Station and Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. Both the geophysical and ecological research occurs in east San Diego county, and the wireless connectivity will allow field scientists to easily transmit data collections from the remote field sites to their campus laboratories. The implementations of these connections are currently being researched and deployment is expected within the next few months.

Network analysis research, including methods such as workload profiles (passive measurement and analysis), and performance (active measurement and analysis), is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the project. Currently, the UC San Diego researchers are working toward better understanding of the application needs and performance profiles, while continuing to evolve the network. "As new collaborators join the project, we will expand the capabilities and uses of the network to adapt to the new criteria," said Hans-Werner Braun, principal investigator of the High-Performance Research and Education Network.

"The project is interesting because we are doing specific performance-related network research in a wide-area wireless networking environment that enables broadband 'last mile access'," said Braun. "But at the same time, we are providing real connectivity services for the day-to-day activities of scientific researchers in disciplines across astronomy, earthquake monitoring, and ecology—as well as to remote, under-served educational users such as those on the Pala Indian reservation."

Additional photographs regarding the Pala Native American Reservation's connection to HPWREN are available at /Photos/sites.html#PNAR.


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