Some new creatures are thrilling travelers passing through the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport. Whether they’re arriving or departing, visitors now can watch a live video feed of toothy Sand Tiger and Sandbar Sharks, majestic Green Sea Turtles, gliding Stingrays and a swarming profusion of colorful reef fish navigating the Tennessee Aquarium’s massive Secret Reef exhibit.
“It’s very relaxing,” said one visitor, who chose to kick back between flights in one of the rocking chairs facing the screen. “I could watch this all day.”
This digital window into the Aquarium’s teeming tank is displayed on a sprawling 98-inch Planar UltraRes screen located beneath the airport’s rotunda. When the feed debuted last March, Chattanooga became the first city in the nation to present live 4K content delivered via a municipal gigabit network.
Nokia, the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Chattanooga Airport, the Tennessee Aquarium, and The Enterprise Center collaborated on the project, which since has accomplished far more than merely demonstrating the blazing speed of EPB fiber optic network to travelers.
Now, schools are joining travelers as beneficiaries of this technological achievement. The Enterprise Center has been working with EPB and the Public Education Foundation to stream live 4K video from the Aquarium to some Hamilton County classrooms.
Geoff Millener, PEF’s Innovation and Technology Programs manager, says the video feed provides a number of educational benefits. Using the feed to support their lessons has helped convince fourth graders in Masey Stubblefield’s class at Red Bank Elementary that science is actually pretty JAW-some.
“We’ve tried to integrate the feeds as a continuous presence, rather than something to be trotted out for specific projects,” Mr. Millener says. “In some ways, they’re the best class pets you could imagine – as students study animal adaptations, habitats and the like, it gives Mrs. Stubblefield an opportunity to have them observe and report on a reef full of subjects. We think this really simple use (always having a vibrant, engaging example available – and not a video, but live stream) has had a huge impact, both in terms of the students’ abilities to question, observe and reach conclusions, as well as to how gigabit technology can integrate seamlessly into the classroom experience.”
Scientific research has shown that visiting an Aquarium has therapeutic benefits that include lowering blood pressure and improving mood. Viewing these fascinating animals — live and in ultra-high resolution — may be the next best thing to seeing them in person, whether you’re flying across the country or a young person dealing with a stressful situation.
“I happened to be at Red Bank Elementary one day as their assistant principal brought in a student who had been having a difficult day,” Mr. Millener says. “He calmed down in the presence of the Aquarium’s display and started talking with me about what was troubling him.
“These tangential uses of the Aquarium’s live video stream are especially interesting to me. I think they speak to the innovation born of technologists and teachers working side by side.”
View the Tennessee Aquarium Secret Reef webcam online: http://www.tnaqua.org/animals-exhibits/secret-reef-cam/