Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Underwater Sensor Nets: Sonar on the Cheap...sort of

Ever since (and I'm well sure before) the days of sending messages in bottles across the sea, it has been hard to get information to travel through the water. Sure, there are the expensive sonar systems that the Navy uses. But researchers collecting data on coral reefs or kelp beds don't have that kind of budget. A group of information technology pioneers at UC San Diego led by computer science PhD student Bridget Benson are well on their way to a new breed of cheap, reliable nets of underwater sensors for environmental monitoring. Yesterday, computer science professor Ryan Kastner presented some of the teams latest work on figuring out which hardward platforms are the least energy consuming at an IEEE workshop in Rome.

Back here in San Deigo, Bridget Benson, the PhD student leading the project, has an interesting perspective: can see the challenge from two sides, literally. In her spare time, Bridget works as a volunteer coordinator for the nonprofit group Reef Check. In this role, she gets experienced divers to help Reef Check monitor the California coastline. This is the kind of project that nets of underwater sensors could someday help with.

Learn more about Reef Check here. Their next dive in La Jolla cove is this Saturday, May 30.

Electrical engineering undergrad Brian Faunce is the person in the lowest photo of the bunch above.
“In class, you learn a lot of theory, but you don’t learn how to revise a schematic, layout the printed circuit board, assemble the circuit and then perform field tests. I have friends at other schools, and when it comes to internships and projects, they are just not available at other schools the way they are here,” said Faunce.