UMES-AIR: A NASA-UMES Collaborative Project to Promote Experiential Learning and Research in Multidisciplinary Teams for SMET Students

  • Abhijit Nagchaudhuri
  • Geoffrey Bland


The UMES-AIR (Undergraduate Multidisciplinary Earth Science-Airborne Imaging Research) project was partially funded by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in the fall of 1999. The project has provided a platform for involving a group of undergraduate students in science, mathematics, engineering and technology (SMET) curricula at University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) in an ?out of classroom? active learning and exploratory research experience. The project involves flying an instrumented payload on a tethered blimp filled with helium to a height of up to 2500 feet. The payload includes monochrome and color cameras attached with different band-pass filters, transmitters, and the power supply for all on-board power requirements. The transmitters are used to transmit the acquired images to the ground where they are received at the ground station, displayed and recorded on a Television and Video-Cassette Recorder combined (TV-VCR Combo) unit. The scientific objectives of the project include aerial imaging in the visible and infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, land survey, study of shoreline erosion, research in agricultural land use patterns, and environmental studies pertaining to algal blooms in the Chesapeake Bay. The project also has a strong focus towards educational objectives and involves more than twenty students from different SMET curricula at UMES. UMES administration has strongly supported the activity by providing space for the blimp shed and encouraging student and faculty involvement. The initial phase of the project has drawn significant student participation. The project has also received additional funding from the University System of Maryland for promoting recruitment and retention of minority and economically disadvantaged students. The first phase of the project has been a success. The blimp with the instrumented payload has been flown over the UMES Campus to a height of 500 feet. The acquired images are currently being analyzed. Subsequent launches for the blimp are scheduled to be at UMES agricultural fields and the Wallops Flight Facility of NASA.