AWIPS Tips: Use Case Example: Texas A&M CAVE in the Classroom

AWIPS Tips

Welcome back to AWIPS Tips!

With this edition of AWIPS Tips we’re excited to highlight one of our power user Universities. The Unidata AWIPS team has had the pleasure of working with the Texas A&M (TAMU) Atmospheric Sciences department for the last several years.

Traditionally, the Atmospheric Sciences department at TAMU had used Unidata’s GARP (GEMPAK Analysis and Rendering Program) as one of their main analysis and visualization tools. Both faculty and students realized that although still powerful, GARP was dated and usage of AWIPS would prepare students better for tools they would use in the National Weather Service and other operational settings with the advent of the Unidata version. Already beginning to incorporate AWIPS CAVE in the ATMO 456 Practical Forecasting class by using the Unidata cloud EDEX since 2019 (on lab iMacs and personal Macbooks and PCs running VMWare player), Dr. Don Conlee realized that the AWIPS architecture would not truly be the primary teaching tool until it could hold a 10 day rolling archive.

Dr. Don Conlee TAMU
Dr. Don Conlee

This motivation compelled TAMU to apply for a Unidata equipment award in early 2020. Their grant proposal described a hardware setup to run an EDEX system even more powerful than, at the time, the current Unidata EDEX system (because of the 10 day archive requirement). Texas A&M was granted their equipment award and over the course of the next semester, with the help of the Unidata AWIPS team, they assembled and started their own EDEX server. Their setup consists of three machines: one main EDEX, one ancillary radar EDEX, and one ancillary model EDEX. Their EDEX server is configured to maintain a 10-day archive for all data which is used to capture recent weather events for classroom examples and case studies.

In addition to their EDEX server, TAMU’s Atmospheric Sciences department also dedicated resources to upgrade their two computer labs, allowing them to fully transition to Linux machines. The computers in these labs have Unidata CAVE installed and running (along with GARP, IDV, and McIDAS), and are kept up to date with Unidata’s latest releases.

The work for drafting and organizing the equipment award was headed by Dr. Conlee. The additional work for setting up and maintaining the EDEX server, and making sure CAVE is up to date in the computer labs, is primarily led and managed by Dr. Gyorgyi Gyarmati with the help of the College of Arts and Sciences Technology Services team..

Dr. Gyorgyi Gyarmati TAMU
Dr. Gyorgyi Gyarmati

Now with a powerful, local EDEX server, Professors in the Atmospheric Sciences Department decided to fully incorporate AWIPS into their curriculum. Dr. Erik Nielsen, Dr. Chris Nowotarski, and Dr. Don Conlee, integrated AWIPS into the syllabi of their classes and are actively using CAVE and Unidata’s educational learning material, Learn AWIPS CAVE, in the classroom.

Dr. Erik Nielsen TAMU
Dr. Erik Nielsen
Dr. Chris Nowotarski TAMU
Dr. Chris Nowotarski

The Unidata AWIPS team had a chance to sit down with Dr. Nielsen and Dr. Nowotarski over the summer and learn more about how they use AWIPS at TAMU. So far, AWIPS has been incorporated into three core classes in the Atmospheric Department: ATMO 251, ATMO 352, and ATMO 456, in addition to a graduate level synoptic meteorology elective (ATMO 658). Students’ first introduction to AWIPS comes during their Sophomore year when they take 251, which is a synoptic weather course. Near the end of the course Dr. Nielsen introduces AWIPS by demonstrating the tool to his students. From there, they build upon that introduction in 352 which is a severe weather course. This course is taught by Dr. Nowotarski, and he begins the lab portion of the course by assigning the learning modules of Learn AWIPS CAVE as coursework for the first three lab sessions. From there the students continue to use TAMU’s own EDEX server regularly for the remainder of the semester. Finally, atmospheric students take one of their final courses, ATMO 456 which is a forecasting class taught by Dr. Nielsen and Dr. Conlee, where they use AWIPS extensively for the entire course.

“By the time they get to me, they’re using it every day as a forecasting tool.” – Dr. Nielsen

Through these courses, Drs. Nielsen, Nowotarski, and Conlee have built a pipeline of AWIPS experience in their Atmospheric Sciences program. The efforts have paid off by better preparing their students for the National Weather service – with forecasting being one of the main job opportunities at the completion of this degree.

“We’ve heard already from some of the students that have gone into the weather service in the last year or two that they’ve felt much more comfortable using AWIPS because we’ve started to introduce it into the curriculum.” – Dr. Nowotarski

Here at Unidata, we appreciate Texas A&M’s commitment to integrating AWIPS into their degree program and have enjoyed working with them over the past several years. Thank you for being such a great example of how AWIPS can be useful in the classroom.

We'd love to hear from anyone else in our University Community if you have a similar success story or if there are any ways we can help you achieve a system like Texas A&M has implemented.

Check back in two weeks for the next blog post about creating new scales in EDEX!

To view archived blogs, visit the AWIPS Tips blog tag, and get notified of the latest updates from the AWIPS team by signing up for the AWIPS mailing list. Questions or suggestions for the team on future topics? Let us know at support-awips@unidata.ucar.edu

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