Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My look back at the trip

After 3 flights from Norway, a midnight drive from LAX to San Luis Obispo, a 3:00am bedtime, and a 9:00am lecture, I wonder why I set such crazy schedules. Is all the effort for such a program worth it?

The reality is that the ICEX team accomplished everything we hoped. Despite volcano eruptions, lost travel funds, and unreliable airline employees, the team not only arrived in Trondheim, Norway but exceeded both Kasper's (lead biologist) and my expectations. Jane's leadership in cultural training proved invaluable in forming intelligent discussions regarding Norwegian history, culture, economics, and education. The students demonstrated technical skills and the ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.



The team's efforts led to the first ever 4D (time and space) dissolved oxygen data measurements of a true underwater environment. These results will likely be published in respected journals, demonstrating the value of the students' work.

Given all we learned and accomplished, I feel this year's ICEX trip was a true success. I hope the ICEX participants will use the skills they have learned in future projects, and look back fondly on missed flights, trying new beverages, pop star sightings, and swimming in Hopavagen.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 5 - IVER Mission Planning

After the experiments of the day before, including a full grid run at the surface, we decided to make the mission grid a little smaller. This was done to keep the IVER farther away from the shore and minimize the risk to the IVER. We set the IVER to undulate between the surface and 10 meters (30 feet) or 12.192 meters (40 feet) in order to gather dissolved oxygen data as deep as possible. This was the most ambitious mission that our IVER has been sent on yet in terms of depth! And it performed admirably each time! The OceanServer software predicted that the mission would last 50 minutes, but it turned out to last about 65 minutes each time it was completed.
IVER Undulating MissionMap of IVER's Undulating Mission

Today's testing was very successful, but didn't come without a little excitement. In the middle of a mission the head of the field station came speeding down in his car to our test site and shouted to Kasper in Norwegian. While none of us understood what was being communicated, Kasper definitely did, as he took off running towards the field station. As we came to find out later, Kasper's lab experiment unfortunately got a little hot, as the projector being used to provide light to the water samples overheated and began smoking. This was an unfortunate setback but KAsper, as usual, carried on with his cheerful and kind attitude. Below is a picture of the experiment...before the accident.


Kasper in the lab taking O2 readings. Projector is on the left.

During the next mission we were able to escape for quick hike up the closest mountain. All of us had been eager to hike, and we finally got the change. Fifteen minutes later we found ourselves at the top with a spectacular view of the bay and the Trondheim fjord. Below are some of the pictures taken.

Part of the group making their way to the top.

View from above of the dock, tent, Jane, and field station.

When we returned we found Jane looking comfy on our local rock. A good book, beautiful view, and comfortable rock....who could ask for more!

After Jane...thats right Jane.... sent the IVER out on its last mission we finally decided to walk the walk after talking the talk....and go for a swim. We knew it would be cold, but as we said "How many times to you get the chance to swim in Norwegian fjord!?" It ended up being Jesse, Kevin, and Frank in the initial group. We made it look so good that Chris couldn't help but follow our lead minutes later. The water was definitely a bit chilly, but once you got used to it (AKA body went numb), all of the chill went away and the fun began. We had swim races, did flips and dives off the dock, and provided our best impersonations of the IVER itself.

Jane showing off her technical side.

Jessie leading the charge to retrieve the IVER as it made it's in to dock.

Retrieving the IVER.

Overall we had a great last day of testing. We took some great data that demonstrated fluctuating O2 levels based on the reading. Also the sun came out, the rain stopped, and we were blessed with a truly gorgeous Norwegian day.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 4: Sletvik Station

Today was a big success, but its 2 am and we are tired! Enjoy some of many pictures of our adventure, more to come soon!


Kevin protects his computer from the rain as others hide in the tent!Kasper keeping a watchful eyeFrank and the IVER with the bubble wrap still wrapped around the front of it. This was before we realized that it would not be able to dive under the water with the bubble wrap on it. After we removed the bubble wrap it had enough buoyant force to bring it to the surface in the Hopvagen fjord Coiling rope Driving the IVERChecking that the epoxy kept all the water outJane helping Kasper with some tests that will record the amount of light penetrating the water at increasing depths.IVER passing by on missions Biology stuff! Preparing to test oxygen levels in a controlled enviornment

Day 3 - IVER Progress

Today we fixed the problems that we were having yesterday by soldering the serial connector to the secondary processor board. We discovered that the pins that we had re-soldered toward the end of the night, about 3:00 AM, had become bent, some broken when we were assembling the IVER. When we arrived at the Trondheim Biological Station in the morning we decided that the best way to fix the problem with the pins was to solder wires directly to the board onto the surface mount pads. This would be a temporary fix that should hold for all of the testing that we need to do here in Norway. After working with that we had lunch at TBS with a large group of people some celebrating there PhD exams finishing and other around to greet us. The food we had was pizza with some unusual flavors. One flavor that stuck out was the Mexican Pizza which had jalapenos and other spices similar to Mexican food. Another was was a pizza similar to Thai food that had peanuts and curry sauce.
After lunch we took the IVER down to the water and ballasted it before deploying it. There was some trouble when we first placed the IVER in the water because of the extra weight of the oxygen sensor it made the entire robot want to sink instead of being neutrally buoyant. To correct for this we make the IVER a life jacket out of bubble wrap which made it float to the surface. It was necessary that the IVER have a slight buoyant force upward so when the mission was over it would stay at the surface of the water. With the IVER at the correct buoyancy we ran a couple of missions at the surface of the water to see if everything was working correctly with the sensor and if the GPS locations were correct. After it was all done we packed everything up so we could go to Sletvik the next day.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 3 - Microbrewery Dinner


On June 18th we went to a microbrewery called Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri for dinner. This restaurant/brewery was suggested by Inga, a Master's student working with Kasper. She also told us to try the beer sampler so we could taste all the different beers that they brew there. The sampler included the following types of beer: their seasonal beer (a summer beer), pale ale, india pale ale, porter, stout, amber, bitter, and Trondhjemspils (Trondheim Pils in English). For dinner we had two bbq pork sandwhiches, one mikro club sandwhich (brewerys club), one blue cheese burger, and two kylling burgers (chicken) marinated in the amber beer. We also had a lot of fun reading the Norwegian menu and comparing it to the one English menu that we found. We especially liked the word for chicken: "kylling". Throughout this cultural experience we toasted to friends, the ICEX program, Kasper (our Norwegian host and colleague), and the success of the trip.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 3 - Marintek Tour

After a very successful morning and afternoon of testing with the IVER we, along with Kasper, visited the Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute in Trondheim. Our guide, Frederick, was extremely accommodating by letting us push back the tour by a few hours to accommodate time for more testing back at TBS. (Tusen Takk!) This research institute is made up of NTNU facilities manned by researchers and students, as well as Marintek facilities. Marintek is a research company in the SINTEF Group, which is the largest independent research organization in all of Scandinavia. Frederick discussed how the NTNU group and Marintek are connected on many levels, yet also disconnected in their major operations. For the tour we were able to view a couple of Marintek's testing facilities including two ship model tanks and an ocean basin. Unfortunately pictures are not allowed inside the testing areas due to the cutting edge ship designs modeled within the lab, so I will try my best to describe what we saw.

The first testing area was a massive ship model tank unlike anything any of us had seen before. The tank was first constructed in 1939 and is essentially a controlled wave pool that is used as a testing and proving grounds for scaled down models of new ship and oil rig designs. These models vary in size and are created on a 5-axis milling machine. They were very detailed and intricate to ensure accuracy and also seemed quite sturdy. The models themselves ranged from around 10-20 ft long and 3-5 feet wide. On top of the pool there was a rail system that has a testing bed attached to it outfitted with all sorts of instrumentation and video equipment for test trials. The models are attached underneath the test bay and can be pulled as fast as 10 m/s (22 MPH) to simulate movement. The generated waves can be as large as 0.9 m (2.95 ft), which, according to Frederick, are scaled to be about the largest possible wave a boat will ever see in the ocean. This pool was extremely impressive and very large. It became very clear that Norway is an absolute international leader in this field of design and testing, which was confirmed by Frederick's description of the uniqueness of this facility on an international scale.

The next facility was an ocean basin . This basin is also used to test new ship and offshore structure designs. This facility allows for total environmental simulation including wind, waves, and current. The ocean basin is used more for the testing of offshore platforms and ships when multiple environmental simulated conditions are desired. With a depth of 10m, the basin is also very well suited for deep water structure testing. The entire pool is surrounded by media equipment and sensors to provide the data to analyze what exactly happens to these models. This testing basin only furthered our feeling that this facility was really...really cool! I couldn't help but visualize the IVER propelling around in those pools.

After the ocean basin, we went to see the lab Frederick performs his research in. Again we found ourselves shocked to see the "smaller" testing pool was still a quite massive ship model tank used mainly for testing automated control systems for dynamic stabilization of ships. After a "short" walk down to the end of the pool we were told about the Cavitation Tunnel facility that is used to test new propeller designs for ships.

This led to the end of an extremely impressive tour. Many thanks to Frederick and Marinetek!





Thursday, June 17, 2010

Norway Day 2: Prepare the IVER!

Today started with breakfast at the hostel. A very nice spread, we had a selection of breads and meats, unfrosted flakes and bran, and some unknown Norwegian dishes. These two dishes were a gelled substance containing carrots, peas, corn and shrimp and a liver pate which we originally thought to be a meatloaf. Once breakfast was done we all packed up and headed to TBS. This ride really reinforced the idea that Norway loves tunnels and round-abouts, tunnels sometimes last 4km long not to mention there is even a round-about in a tunnel!


After arriving at TBS around 9 we were greated by smiling faces and kaffe (coffee in Norwegian). We then went strainght into a meeting that was a plan for the rest of our stay. What we wanted to accomplish, what the biologists wanted from our data, and when we wanted to do everything. Today's goal was decided to prepare the IVER for missions by TBS on Friday. This task would include fixing anything that may have gone wrong in transit, mount and integrate the O2 sensor to the IVER, test, and ideally drive by wire or even send it off on a basic mission.

Finished with our planning, we were given a tour of the facility and were amazed by the tools available to the research center. Now ready to begin with the day's task we unload the IVER. After not seeing any problems we connected the power and gave everything an inital test, only to find the motor was not working. Inspecting the motor we thought it may have been a little stuck, so we lubed it up until it was spinning much better. We tried the motors again and still no luck. It was only then after looking even closer did we learn that the motor cable itself was broken, but this fix would have to wait until lunch was over.

For lunch we had amazing sandwhiches with the other biologists at TBS. We talked about a wide variety of things. Kevin and Jessie talked to Inga and others about what they thought "American food" was, which turned out to be pie and turkey. Another topic that got the whole group giving their own feed back was Sweden. We were right to assume that Norway was tired of having Sweden as a "big brother" and recently the tables seemed to have turned. There are now a significant amount of Swedes traveling to Norway for work. They not only work cheaper, but work full time as well. The Swedish are easily distinugished it seems not just because of the language difference but they are also much more friendly and open according to Igna. The conversation then headed to the language barrier, specifically in Iceland. After discussing how Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano that originally stopped our travel plans, is translated literally as island-glacier-mountain we learned that Iceland is very committed to preserving their native language to keep it pure. An example was given, where Norway's translation of helicopter is helikopter, Iceland named it ______ which literally means spinning house.

With lunch over, it was back to work. The motor was hooked up properly once more and that problem was solved, but more arose as Jane and Jessie left to finally pick up Frank from the airport.

Although we tried to get straight back to work when the airport team returned, we soon had a unique chance to tour the NTNU Research Vessle. This was a very nice boat that was for the universities use which we were able to get a tour of. We walked from the dry and wet lab rooms to the common area, to the helm where we were able to sit in the captains chair.

The wet lab room
The steep stairs Kevin in the captains chair
The arrival of Frank made an immediate difference. As we prepared to epoxy the O2 sensors wires through the plugs that will help keep the IVER waterproof, he saved us a long task by replacing it with a simple one. Being simple did not make the epoxy any less messy though. Very careful not to get any on our surroundings Kevin and Alex ended up getting it all over their hands as the exccess ran from the plugs. We almost had everything we needed to get the IVER running, the only problem was the epoxy needed at least an hour to dry.

Filling the plug with epoxy

Taking advantage of this wait time we decided to get dinner. Tonight's choice went back to the converstation at lunch of what American food was to Nowegians. We were going to Egon Cafe, which focused on American food. We quickly turned to the dessert and found the Hot Apple Cake which was a piece of pie with ice cream on the side. We then looked through the menu commenting on how the meal was or wasn't American. We all went with some kind of burger, but with further reading we learned that the hamburger had cheese and the burger came with a salad, but the salad was in fact the lettuce and tomatoes in the burger. With dinner done we were off too check up on the epoxy.

Dinner at Egons Cafe

Still not dry enough, we had sometime to kill before we could reassemble and test the IVER again. Alex led a crash course on how to plan missions for those who were unfaimilar with the Vector Map software. We went over how to plan the course that the IVER would follow, and then saved some basic missions to run when the IVER was ready to go. During the spare time we tried to get a program running on Kevin's computer because the graphics card on Jessie's computer wasn't up to par. There were some problems with the program not properly starting up on Kevin's computer, so we sent the creator an email asking his thoughts on the situation and we await his response.

As night falls without getting any darker, the epoxy has finally been announced dry enough to mount the crucial pieces onto the IVER. The process of hooking every thing up seemed to go smoothly as we sealed everything back into its proper place using generous amounts of sealant. The moment of truth was upon us as we turned everything on and waited for the O2 sensor to register, and sadly it did not. We found a couple of loose connections that we fixed, but after many more cycles of assembly and dismantling the IVER it became apparent that a larger problem was present. After taking a closer look at the 2 wires connecting the sensor to the IVER we discovered that one of the connectors was loose due to bent surface mounted pins. This explained the inconsistent behavior of the sensor connection. Now the question was how to fix it. We tried many different methods centered around re-soldering the pins onto the board. Below are some pictures of this process.

Taking it apart Putting it back together
Soldering at 2 am

The night was a long one and after about 4 hours of working on this problem we decided it was time for bed. The biggest issue with our approach was the fact that getting the connector to fit flushly required near machine-grade soldering precision. Which, at 2:30 in the morning, was not happening. We had a plan for morning on a new solution, but it would have to wait as we wearily made our way back to our hostile at 3:00 am as Dr. Clark sent an email to Kasper informing him we would not be back to TBS at 9:00am like originally planned.

The Scientific Context for Our Work

The ICEX program would not be possible without fantastic international collaborators. This year, we are very grateful to Kasper Hancke, a post-doctoral fellow in Physiology and Marine Sciences at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's Trondheim Biological Station (TBS) for his organization of this, our (much delayed!) trip to Norway. (Big thanks as well to Kasper's colleagues at NTNU!)

All of us are also quite excited about the scientific context of the work that we are doing with the IVER in the next few days. Our primary goal is to attach an oxygen sensor to the autonomous underwater vehicle and then to conduct various missions at the Bay of
HopavÄgen where the Trondheim Biological Station's Sletvik Field Station is located. This field station is approximately 120 km west of Trondheim and about 20 km west of the outlet of the Trondheimsfjord.

Today, as part of our first "work day" in Trondheim, we met with Kasper at 9 am this morning at TBS to learn more about why mapping oxygen level distributions is so important. The level of oxygen in the water at any given time and depth is determined by two competing processes: photosyntheis (which produces oxygen as a byproduct) and metabolism/respiration (which consumes oxygen and produces carbon dioxide). Measuring changes in oxygen levels across time allows researchers to monitor photosynthesis rates in the water column. Photosynthesis rates are impacted by the amount of micro- and macro-algae in the water as well as the amount and angle of light which is hitting the surface of the water, amongst other factors.

Our aim over the next few days, in Kasper's words, is to quantify the net community oxygen production (gross oxygen production via photosynthesis minus oxygen consumption via metabolism/respiration) of the
HopavÄgen enclosure and Trondheimsfjord. We will also aim to map the oxygen distribution in 3D and construct a related time-series. (NOTE: metabolism/respiration rates can be determined by taking water samples and running lab-based experiments in which the samples are exposed to no light - thus, removing photosynthesis from the equation.) This net community oxygen production data can then be used for various applications, including:
  • monitoring the impact of human activity on coastal ecosystems (e.g., effects from nutrient run-off related to aquaculture and agriculture activities);
  • monitoring the impacts of toxics (e.g., oil spills) on marine production;
  • studying climate impacts on marine carbon turn-over; and,
  • mapping kelp forest activity and health status.
The data we collect on Saturday will be used in conjunction with other data collection methods that include lab-based experiments, stationary sensors, and boat-drawn sensors. Based on our discussion with Kasper this morning, it seems that we have an amazing opportunity to produce some valuable data, and the whole team is excited and working hard to prepare the IVER. (In fact, as I finish this blog post, it is 1:11am. We are still hard at work at TBS, 16 hours after our arrival this morning for our first work day - soldering iron and all!)

[UPDATE by Alex:] Another exciting aspect of the technical side of our work consists of the confidence values we can associate with the data we collect. So for each data point, the confidence value for that data point depends on how long it has been since we last received a GPS measurement. In other words how much possible error in our location estimate has built up since the last GPS measurement, a high amount of possible error leads to a lower confidence value. For example, using data collected in Avila Bay, one area where there would be lower confidence values can be seen in the area labelled "A" in the picture below. Conversely, a low amount of possible error leads to a high confidence value. The area labelled "B" in the picture below corresponds to an area right after a GPS measurement was received and there would be a high confidence value for the data-points in that area.Therefore if, for example, part of the dataset seems different from the rest, we can look at the confidence values for that area and if there are low confidence values then we know that the data-points for that area might not be accurate.

Norway Day One (Frank's Version) June 17, 2010

As noted in the previous post, I did not make it onto the airplane with the rest of the group Tuesday morning due to an issue with my ticket. I ended up on the phone with the travel agency for a while after the rest of the group had left, trying to get another flight that day. In the end I got another ticket for the next day leaving SLO at the same time, 6:00 AM, and I had one extra layover in Houston but would take the same flight to Oslo and Trondheim only a day later than the rest of the group.
When I arrived in SLO on Wednesday morning there turned out to be more issues. I had a print out of my itinerary and an E-ticket number, but I was not on the list of people to get onto the plane in the computer. I called the travel agency again and they said they would sort it out while I was on the plane from SLO to LAX as long as I could get onto the plane in SLO. I think the woman at the front counter in the SLO airport felt sorry for me so she put me on the plane and said that I would need to pick up my bags and recheck in once I got into Los Angles. At that point I was off on my way to Norway. When I got into LA I picked my bag up within 10 minutes of arriving and headed to the terminal to check in for my other flights. As I was walking the travel agency called me and said that everything had been worked out while I was in the air and they should be able to check me in all the way through my final destination. When I got to the ticket counter the woman confirmed this with me and gave me all of my boarding passes and took my bag. After that moment it was pretty much smooth sailing the rest of the way to Trondheim aside from a slightly late plane in Houston making me worry that I might miss my connecting flight.

Here is a picture of me out by a large boat next to the Trondheim Biological Station (TBS) where we will be working part of the time.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Norway Day One - 6/17/2010

Well we finally made it! (For the most part that is) After volcanic delays, school finals, 4 flights and many long hours the ICEX team has made it to Trondheim, Norway. Unfortunately due to some very minor ticketing discrepancies one of our team members, Frank, was not able to board the plane with us in San Luis Obispo Monday morning. It wasn't the same travelling without him, however we understand that the issues have been finally resolved, and Frank is en route to us now. So barring another Icelandic volcano eruption we hope to be welcoming Frank to this beautiful city and country later this afternoon.

Despite only being here for less than 24 hours we have already been able to see a great deal of Norway. Below I will briefly detail some of the sites we have seen so far.

Oslo

Wow! What a treat it was to stop by Oslo, Norway's capital city, prior to our flight to Trondheim. We had a multi-hour layover and decided to take the express train that runs from the airport to downtown Oslo. The city was very alive and beautiful. We were able to take a nice walk around downtown that brought us by many major landmarks within Norway including the Royal Palace and the Stortinget (parliament building). Unfortunately we had to leave Oslo sooner than I think most of would have liked (witnessed by Chris' extreme excitement of the art in the picture below), but there is work to be done. So we hopped back on the train and zipped back through the absolutely gorgeous countryside to the airport for our connection to Trondheim.



Below are some additional pictures of sites around Oslo.
This is a view from the front of the Royal Palace in Oslo. The statue you see in the front is a bronze sculpture of the former King Karl Johan.
This is a view from the side of the Norwegian Parliament building in the middle of Oslo.
Needless to say...Chris really enjoyed downtown Oslo.
The Nobel Peace Center
Alex posing with an interesting statue.

Trondheim

After a short 45 minute flight to the North we arrived in the city of Trondheim. On the approach into the airport we flew over a vast range of snow covered land that really reminds you that you aren't in California anymore. From the airport our very brave and talented advisor, Jane, did an excellent job driving our manual rental van to the hostel we are staying at. Singsaker Sommerhotell, the hostel, is actually the largest inhabited wooden building in all of Northern Europe, with 104 rooms and 16 bathrooms. It was fun to come in an hear the Spain-Switzerland World Cup match blaring from upstairs with periodic cheers. I'm sure we will all do our fair share of World Cup watching while we are here. Go USA! Anyways after we got unpacked we went for a walk around the city. Almost immediately we were presented with the view you see above of the Nidaros Cathedral tower. It is an awesome sight.

This is the view overlooking the river Nidelva that runs through Trondheim. The picture was taken from the Old Town Bridge. The style of building seen seems to be a prevalent architectural style throughout the city. After some more strolling about and a coffee fix at a local kaffebar, we met up for dinner with some of the faculty and students we are working with from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). The restaurant we ate at, Baklandet Skydsstations, was very quaint and comfortable. The food, which came recommended by Kasper, was delicious. I think we all actually ordered the same thing, so more to come on the variety of Norwegian cuisine we experience.

After dinner we took another walk around town with the group to see the cathedral. Note the sky in this picture...more specifically the color of the sky. I took this picture at 9:30 PM!! Yep thats right...Trondheim has 24/7 daylight this time of year. It is kind of eerie yet very cool at the same time. I would compare the night time sky to that of California around 7-8 AM in the morning. The Nidaros Cathedral itself was beautiful. The romanesque and Gothic architectural style was very detailed and intricate. The front of the building, which is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world, is covered with individually unique statues. Of whom these statues are we are not sure, but regardless they are quite impressive. After a very long and productive day we all made our way back to the hostel to get some rest to start work tomorrow.

Below are some additional pictures of sites around Trondheim.

A nice view of the fjord and surrounding area on the road in from the airport.

The first authentic Norwegian cuisine that well all had. Bacalao.

The archbishop's palace.

This is a picture of the team in front of the cathedral.

A closer look at the intricate details on the cathedral.

Even closer.

This is a view from the other side of the cathedral.