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Science on a Sphere arrives at KAFB, first in DOD

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- In a completely black room at the 335th Training Squadron’s Weather Training Complex, a 48-inch carbon fiber globe hangs, suspended from the ceiling with projectors pointing at it from each corner, awaiting its Defense Department debut March 23, 2017.

Science on a Sphere is the DOD’s newest weather training aid, using computers with high-end graphic cards and video projectors to display data onto the globe. Wing leadership is excited for the opportunity to provide the latest technology and innovative solutions to improve training for our students and instructors.

“The system was developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as an educational tool to help illustrate earth weather science through animations of atmospheric storms, climate change, and ocean temperatures,” said Capt. Caleb Tynes, a 335th TRS weather training instructor supervisor.

While the globe itself does not move, the animations projected onto the globe give the illusion that the globe rotates just like the earth does. The system uses animations from more than 500 pre-constructed data packages to enhance the training environment. The animations range from satellite imagery to radar to hurricane tracking patterns.

Although the system will not display in real-time, data can be saved to a disk and projected at any time.

Instructors for Weather Initial Skills and Weather Officer Courses will use the system as a tool to help students gain an enhanced understanding of fundamental atmospheric and oceanographic processes.

Maj. Sonia Walker, the Weather Training flight commander, hopes that bringing in an advanced visual tool will help students have a better understanding of how weather patterns work and how different products compare to one another.

“I think the students are really going to enjoy it,” Walker said. “I think it’s going to be something cool that they will see and think, ‘Oh, that totally makes sense now, I understand what you’re talking about,’ instead of just seeing it on paper or a screen. They’ll see it in 3-D.”

She hopes students will remember the visuals and gain a more in-depth understanding of how weather patterns work and how atmospheric conditions affect things like thunderstorms, allowing them to forecast in the operational environment with added confidence.

Procurement and installation of the system has been a combined effort between the 335th TRS, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, 81st Training Support Squadron, 81st Communications Squadron, 85th Engineering Installation Squadron and the contractors, BWC Visual Technology.

Keesler Air Force Base is an ideal home for the $105,000 Science on a Sphere system since all DOD weather students receive their training here.

“We are proud and excited to be the first home for this innovative new tool for our weather students,” said Col. Michele Edmondson, the 81st Training Wing commander. “This will provide the students a visual tool unlike any other in military weather training and we are excited to unveil it.”