UMD EarthDial in College Park, MD
How we learned about it
Hi! I'm Elizabeth Warner, Coordinator of the UMD Observatory (as well as Liaison to Amateur Astronomers for the Deep Impact mission and Faculty Associate with Science, Discovery & the Universe or SDU). In late Nov 2003, I got an email from a professor/friend in SC about the EarthDial project. I read through the description and thought it would make a great project for some students in SDU. SDU is one of 12 programs in College Park Scholars, a freshmen/sophomore living/learning community here at the University of Maryland. Our program focuses on understanding knowledge including communicating science and knowledge. Unfortunately, the students were getting ready for finals, then winterbreak and would not be back until late January. But two students decided that they would be willing to work on it during winterbreak as part of their sophomore project.
Doug and Suzanne used the detailed instructions at the Planetary Society's website to build their EarthDial. As part of the documentation for their project, they kept a journal.
Suzanne and Doug were tasked with building the EarthDial. I gave myself the task of trying to get a webcam for it. This was difficult. The UMD Observatory, our first choice for a location, does not have internet access. So we had to find another location on campus that had a spot where we could set up the EarthDial and webcam that was secure, had access to a computer network (preferable one that I had access to like the one in Astronomy!) and power (to run the webcam). We decided to put it up on the roof of the Computer Space Sciences building which houses the Astronomy Department. Now the search for a webcam. Unfortunately, most of the cheaper ones are meant to be set up relatively near a computer. We did not have that luxury. We bought one camera, but it was idiot-proofed too much and would work best as a security camera (one person logging in from elsewhere). We couldn't extract the basic image. Searching some more we found a more expensive candidate. Without going into the gory details, we got it. Within two days of receiving the camera, we had it up and running, posting images to the web of our EarthDial (even thought it was still inside!).
The EarthDial is complete. The camera is working. Next is to build a contraption that will hold the camera over the EarthDial and install the rig up on the roof.