High-tech system enhances visits to science museums

An innovative technological system to support extracurricular educational activities such as science museums was displayed at this year’s Thessaloniki International Fair in the program «Science and Technology Week 2006» held by the general secretariat for research and technology. The system was developed with the Connect research program and funded by the European Commission and is coordinated by the National Technical University’s microwave and fiber-optics laboratory at its University Research Institute for Communication and Computer Systems. Using special portable computers, a visitor to a science museum can see the real exhibit as well as aspects not visible to the naked eye, such as electromagnetic fields. Such extra features help encourage the imagination of pupils. «During a physics experiment, the pupil can see phenomena that cannot be seen, such as friction forces,» said Michalis Gargalakos, a researcher at the laboratory. The system has been tested at four scientific centers in Europe, including the Eugenides Foundation, where experiments concern the basic laws of Newtonian mechanics on linear movement. «In this day and age it is no longer enough to approach a subject solely within a school textbook,» said Sophocles Sotiriou, head of development at the Greek-German school Ellino-Germaniki Agogi, which drafted the scenarios and implemented the program in cooperation with the 2nd Senior High School of Argyroupolis and the Athens Special School. The presentation was first made live with DVB-RCS satellite technology with the use of two terminals that linked the Eugenides Foundation and the Thessaloniki International Fair. By combining satellite technology with broadband transmission and «enhanced reality» technology, it is possible to watch a complex experiment long-distance in real time. The system enables people living in isolated areas to visit virtual museums and watch experiments in real time. It provides a better understanding of abstract concepts which are often misunderstood by pupils.