University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Deploys AWIPS II

NWS meteorologists demonstrating AWIPS II
(Click to enlarge)

Thanks to a 2015 Unidata Community Equipment Award grant, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Atmospheric Science Program has been able to acquire a dedicated AWIPS II Environmental Data EXchange (EDEX) server and three Common AWIPS Visualization Environment (CAVE) workstations. The machines were deployed in our Atmospheric Science computer lab in mid-August 2015, just prior to the start of the 2015-16 academic year. Over the past year, our program has seen maximum benefit from these resources in two areas: strengthening our partnership with the Milwaukee/Sullivan, Wisconsin National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office (MKX) and as a tool to enhance student development outside of a formal classroom setting.

Historically, our program has had a strong working relationship with the Milwaukee/Sullivan Weather Forecast Office that has included research collaborations, student internship placement, and the StormReady program. The deployment of AWIPS II EDEX and CAVE systems in our lab has only strengthened that relationship. In mid-October 2015, MKX Warning Coordination Meteorologist Tim Halbach and Meteorologist Intern Ben Herzog visited our program and provided an approximately two hour AWIPS II CAVE demonstration to a group of students, instructors, and faculty. Since then, we have been working with Jerry Wiedenfeld from MKX to localize our AWIPS II deployment to WFO MKX.

Perhaps more important, however, is the enhanced facilitation of student development fostered by the new equipment. This is particularly beneficial to a program such as ours, where approximately 20 percent of our undergraduates and 35 percent of our graduate students gain employment with the National Weather Service after graduation. Of particular note, during the Spring 2016 semester, a senior undergraduate student interested in National Weather Service employment, Alec Muniz, completed a Capstone experience related to using AWIPS II under my supervision. Beyond an increased familiarity with and ability to use AWIPS II CAVE, Alec prepared a comprehensive “Introduction to AWIPS II” training module, covering D2D, Nsharp, GFE, and WarnGen. He used this module to train one of our senior lecturers, Bart Adrian, in the use of AWIPS II CAVE, furthering the culture of servant leadership that we attempt to have permeate our program.

Undergrad Alec Muniz with senior lecturer Bart Adrian

“When I heard last year that the Atmospheric Science Program was going to be receiving AWIPS II, I was very excited for the opportunity. I used AWIPS II at the WFO Sullivan/Milwaukee while I was a student volunteer, and being able to continue gaining experience was something I thought not possible outside of the NWS,” say Muniz. “Using AWIPS II as a beginner can be overwhelming and intimidating — I know it was for me — and I wanted to create a manual that would be an easy starting point for others. My goal was for someone with no experience with AWIPS II to be able to sit down and have something that they could easily follow and reference while they explored AWIPS II. This document is shared with the students in the program and I hope this can assist them learn the software and, hopefully, to encourage them to add what they learn to the document in order to help others.”

The training manual itself resides in the cloud, where all students and faculty have access to learn from, add to, and revise the information therein. Believing that the entire Unidata community may benefit from this effort, we are pleased to share this module with the community. The most current version of the UWM AWIPS II Introduction and User's Guide is availble on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's cloud storage service.

Says senior lecturer Bart Adrian, “I enjoyed being taught some of the ropes on the AWIPS II system by my former student Alec Muniz. Having access to the system presents a great opportunity for our students to become acquainted with the state-of-the-art tools of the National Weather Service. I'm looking forward to introducing my future students to AWIPS II in the classroom next year!”

Over the course of the next year, we intend to deploy the Mac OS and Windows AWIPS II CAVE binaries on the machines within our Atmospheric Science computer lab and at our Innovative Weather program's headquarters, respectively. The former will enable for a larger number of students at a time to make use of AWIPS II, which otherwise would serve as an impediment to our program's utilization of AWIPS II within course offerings such as Atm Sci 690, Daily Weather Discussion, and Atm Sci 360/361, our Synoptic Meteorology I/II sequence. The latter will allow for students to gain experience using AWIPS II CAVE in a real-world forecasting operation much like that which they would experience as operational forecasters with the National Weather Service.

Unidata Community Equipment Award grants make funds available to colleges and universities to puchase equipment or cloud-based computing services that will enhance their participation in the Unidata program. For additional information on program, visit the Equipment Awards page.


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