Southeastern Section - 54th Annual Meeting (March 17–18, 2005)

Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 4:20 PM


BRANDE, Scott, Natural Sciences & Mathematics, UAB, CHM-289, Birmingham, AL 35294 and WOLFORD, David, Telecommunications, UAB, Rust 144, 1530-3rd Ave. South, Birmingham, AL 35294-2070,

The traditional base of the introductory geoscience laboratory course is broadening from specimen collections and workbook exercises to include web content. However, computers are not typically positioned in the geoscience laboratory alongside specimen cabinets and workbenches.

We report on the deployment of wireless technology at UAB, and the beginnings of its use in the geoscience laboratory through handheld computers.

The deployment of wireless access points and their use is generally governed by campus instructional technology (IT) administration. Some decisions made by IT departments (e.g., hardware, wireless infrastructure architecture, authentication protocols) affect the performance of wireless clients. A new wireless gateway server (BlueSocket) and wireless access points have recently been installed in the UAB campus network. Current client authentication through user identification and passwords and static WEP encryption will give way to dynamic encryption protocols as clients become 802.1x-compatible.

We are testing the Axim X30 (Dell) for use as a wireless client in the laboratory. This PocketPC is engineered for handheld web browsing (e.g., Wi-Fi 802.11b; 3.5 inch QVGA (240x320) color TFT screen; Pocket Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player). We have been pleasantly surprised by its reasonable functionality for delivering web, image, and video content.

Some advantages of the use of wireless PDAs in the geoscience laboratory include 1) lesser cost compared to other mobile computers, 2) student experience with new technology, 3) mobility of web and media access, and 4) the integration of relevant web content to enhance the laboratory experience.

Some disadvantages of using the Axim X30 include the downsizing of larger machine specifications (e.g., screen resolution, memory, processor speed).

If wireless service is available, we will demonstrate some of the functionality of the wireless Axim PDA.

This research is supported with funds from the EPSCoR programs of NSF and Alabama.