OSC Supercomputers, Third Frontier Network to Power Megaconference Jr

Worthington Kilbourne, Thomas Worthington High School Students will Participate from OSC Headquarters

Columbus, OH - May 18, 2005 - More than 200 school districts and thousands of students will participate May 19 th in Megaconference Junior, a project designed to give students in elementary and secondary schools across the country and around the world the opportunity to communicate, collaborate and contribute to each other's learning experiences in real time, using advanced multi-point Internet videoconferencing technology. Megaconference Jr will run Thursday May 19, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

More than a dozen countries worldwide are participating in the second annual Megaconference Jr, with a variety of presentation subjects such as Human Rights Issues, Marine Laboratories, U.S. Constitutional Amendments, The Great Lakes, Native American Tribal Dancing, Robotics, and Rain Forests. Additional presentations are being conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, the British Consulate in Indonesia, the U.S. Library of Congress, a tour of Barcelona Spain, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and African Poetry and Art.

Megaconference Jr will be streamed live for those interested in viewing. For more information and a complete listing of events go to www.megaconferencejr.org and select "Streaming" from the Event Day column.

Worthington Kilbourne High School teacher Kevin Johnson said his students are very excited to participate in Megaconference Jr this year.

"The use of advanced technology for helping students and teachers around the world gain a deeper understanding of our different cultures is invaluable. This event will help to break the walls of our schools and engage students with issues that are meaningful to them," Johnson said. "Beyond the Megaconference experience, our students will hopefully continue to build new bridges of learning and communication with students around the world through the use of technology at home and in their school."

K-12 students from the Netherlands, Canada, Taiwan, England, the United States, Spain, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, China, Russia, Malta, Pakistan, Australia, Ghana, the Philippines, and Singapore are participating in Megaconference Jr, and will use this pioneering communications technology to addresses local, national and international curriculum standards, and interact in panel discussions, science presentations, and even songs, dances and games.

The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) and its networking division, OARnet, provide supercomputing and technical support for Megaconference Jr including managing the Network Operations Center (NOC) for global Internet2 H.323 Services. OSC is a technology initiative of the Ohio Board of Regents. Everyone participating in Megaconference Jr is routed through the OARnet Support Center (located on The Ohio State University West Campus), which provides services such as testing connections and connecting participants to the conference through Multipoint Control Units (MCUs).

OSC Executive Director Stan Ahalt said deploying the underlying technology for Megaconference Jr is both an honor and a challenge for the Center.

"As the technical hub for Megaconference Jr our engineering staff work many hours for months in advance to make sure this technology works at hundreds of locations around the world. Our staff are some of the brightest and most dedicated individuals in this field, and their dedication to using technology to bring the students of the world together in this cross-cultural forum is part of the larger mission of OSC," Ahalt said.

Ohio's new high-speed statewide fiber optic network, the Third Frontier Network (TFN), will handle Megaconference Jr traffic throughout the state, and the Internet2 network will handle nationwide traffic. Internet2 is the national high-performance backbone for advanced networking applications development that connects more than 200 universities throughout the United States and to networks in dozens of countries worldwide. The Mid-Atlantic GigaPoP in Philadelphia for Internet2 (MAGPI) is also providing networking and production support for the event.

OSC Engineer Arif Khan, one of the lead technical organizers for the event, said he is amazed to see how much this event grows with each consecutive year.

"This year we have more than twice as many locations as last year, and it just keeps growing. We finally had to turn people away who wanted to participate because our schedule is overflowing with presentations," Khan said. "The students are very excited about this event, and some of them have been planning their presentations for the past year. Megaconference Jr will definitely set the example for how students throughout the world can use technology to break down barriers of place and time to communicate with, and learn from, each other."

Presenters, activity leaders, and audience members in Megaconference Jr include students, teachers and technical staff from elementary, middle and high schools around the world. Presenters design and conduct videoconference-based presentations and activities.

Building international cultural and academic awareness is a major component of Megaconference Jr, and participants will have opportunities to address questions to presenters and collaborate with their geographically dispersed peers in this collaborative learning environment. It also helps students and teachers develop the capacity to effectively utilize high-speed networks, Internet videoconferencing, and other emerging technologies that enhance the learning experience.

For more information about the Ohio Supercomputer Center go to www.osc.edu.