ESSIC participates in 20th Maryland Day

By Teri West

A sunny Maryland Day made for the perfect opportunity for ESSIC staff to engage with Terps of all ages about Earth sciences.

ESSIC assistant research scientist Michael Peterson organized a virtual reality activity with severe weather visuals. Visitors could view imagery from the NOAA GOES-16 satellite, including Hurricane Harvey, thunderstorms in Argentina and Brazil and the lightning hotspot over Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo. There were also lighting visuals, including two that featured locations in the D.C. region. 

“Some folks were disoriented and wobbly, but in a fun way,” said ESSIC faculty specialist Maureen Cribb. “This activity was a definite hit.”

ESSIC research scientist William Lau autographed copies of his manga comic about monsoons for a second year. The book is part of a series of manga books that NASA released in partnership with artist Hayanon that feature his characters Mirubo and Mol. Lau spoke with children about monsoons and encouraged them to study science.

NASA’s Ocean Ecology Lab created an activity for guests to learn about light and color absorption in water. Visitors would shine green, blue and red LED lights into different colored water to see which shined the brightest. Satellites use similar techniques to identify patterns in the ocean, such as the location of plankton.

NASA also brought live ocean plankton cultures and a digital monitor of satellite ocean images.

“It was a fun way to interact with the public, especially the kids, and tell them a little about NASA ocean color efforts,” NASA research scientist Bridget Seegers said.

Another popular activity was a precipitation game in which visitors competed to see how much water they could squeeze from a sponge in 15 seconds. The sponge represented a cloud, and the water was channeled into a rain gauge.

ESSIC handed out 500 Frisbees in addition to other booklets and posters.