Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology JPL HOME EARTH SOLAR SYSTEM STARS & GALAXIES SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY BRING THE UNIVERSE TO YOU JPL Email News RSS Podcast Video
JPL Banner
Ocean Surface Topography from Space
Long Live Excalibur!
May 01, 2007

In August 2006, New York educator, Jacob Tanenbaum participated in the Satellites and Education Conference held in Los Angeles, California where he attended a presentation by Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Ocean Surface Topography program outreach coordinator Annie Richardson. The subject of the presentation was U.S. participation in Argonautica, an international oceanography education program developed by the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), France's Space Agency.

Cottage Lane Elementary Students and Teachers with Argonautica Drifter Buoy 'Excalibur'
Cottage Lane Elementary Students and Teachers with Argonautica Drifter Buoy "Excalibur"
Image credit: South Orangetown CSD

In 2004, the Lycee International de Los Angeles (LILA) a French/American school was chosen by NASA's JPL to pilot the program in the U.S. Twelve LILA students, ages 9-17 were mentored by JPL Ocean Surface Topography Mission system engineer, Dr. Mohamed Abid, in constructing a buoy to measure ocean temperatures. The LILA buoy was launched in the Antarctic ocean in January 2006 in conjunction with science and engineering experiments for the Jason-1 mission. (See the 2006 feature article Student-Built Buoy Launches Ocean Studies).

Immediately following the presentation, Mr. Tanenbaum expressed an interest in conducting a buoy experiment with students at the Cottage Lane Elementary School in Blauvelt, New York, where he is the technology teacher. Ms. Richardson introduced Mr. Tanenbaum to Dr. Danielle De Staerke, Director of Education for CNES and after a number of email exchanges with Ms. Richardson and Dr. De Staerke, Cottage Lane became an official participant in the 2006-2007 Argonautica operation. In November 2006, Mr. Tanenbaum joined the European Argonautica teacher participants in a "get acquainted" teleconference.

Working on 'Excalibur'
Students work on Excalibur as a classroom activity
Image credit: South Orangetown CSD
Over the next several months Mr. Tanenbaum, Mrs. O'Brien, and her 4th grade students worked diligently to construct their buoy. During the construction phase, Mr. Tanenbaum took advantage of lessons learned from the JPL/LILA buoy experiment, contacting Ms. Richardson and Dr. Abid to get advice on such things as what type and where to get temperature sensors compatible with the Argos card, and how to figure out the amount of weight necessary for the buoy's ballast. The Cottage Lane team has now completed their drifter buoy outfitted with temperature sensors and has successfully tested it off a Hudson River pier.

As a returning NOAA Teacher at Sea, Mr. Tanenbaum has the perfect platform for launching the student's drifter, which they've named Excalibur. Mr. Tanenbaum will launch the drifter buoy into the Gulf of Alaska from the Miller Freeman, a NOAA research vessel scheduled to depart from Alaska on May 18th. The Cottage Lane drifter buoy will report its location and the temperature every 90 seconds to researchers all over the world.

In the frigid waters off Antarctica, the LILA experimental buoy met with technical difficulties and only operated for six hours. JPL and the LILA team are sending best wishes to the Cottage Lane team in hopes that their drifter will have smooth sailing and return a wealth of information on conditions in the Gulf of Alaska.

Cottage Lane students and other students participating in Argonautica will be able to monitor their buoy on the Argonautica website. Scientists will also have access to the buoy's information. For tracking on the Argonautica page the Cottage Lane Drifter Buoy has Argos card identity number 25591; name NOAA. The drifter data will also be available in Google Earth format on Mr. Tanenbaum's website.

Additional Information:

Return to News Archive

Link to
Site Manager: Margaret Srinivasan
Webmaster: Kristy Kawasaki
JPL Clearance: CL01-1707