Peter Coppin | Main menu | Projects | The BigSignal Project [1998-2000]

Between 1998 and 2000, "" enabled middle school classroom students to explore Antartica through the 1998 and 2000 NASA/CMU Robotic Search for Antarctic Meteorites [RAMS] expedition.

BigSignal was designed to test a solution to several obstacles encountered during public remote experience projects like RoverTV
  • In public remote experience situations, there are many more users [students] than robots.
  • Large time delays exist between data "downlinks" [transfers] from remote robotic vehicles.

Middle School students
Nomad in Antarctica

=>An archive of "" is here.

=>A paper about BigSignal 1998 [the first version of BigSignal] can be found here.

=>A thesis about BigSignal's interactive java applet is here.     
A solution [] was to create a representation of the remote location as data. This representation was an interactive map of the location that was explored and recorded by the rover.

By exploring the map, students could then "re-live" the experiences of the rover by clicking events in the map to load panoramic imagery and other pictures or data products. A clickable timeline enabled another way to explore the information by tracing the expedition as it unfolded over time.

This solution enabled personal exploration in situations where there are many more people than robots. The solution also enabled students to explore an online archive while they were waiting for additional data to be transferred from the robot.


Classroom teachers, interface designers, web designers, illustrators, videographers and robotics researchers worked together to both create content and adapt robot telemetry to web formats that students and teachers could access from the classroom. Pilot classrooms focused on the areas of physics, remote geology, and technology education.

Bridge to future work [EventScope]

During this time Coppin began studying more advanced ways to create an archive of a remote reality. He read about "virtualized reality", such as 3D models of terrains created by using stereo camera systems. NASA had already enabled scientists to explore “virtualized realities” of the region surrounding the Mars Pathfinder lander. This investigation lead to the creation of the EventScope Project.

An intuitive and classroom oriented data browser enabled students to access new rover data each day. Both Java and HTML version were presented

Arrow pointing to right

Arrow pointing to right

Nomad in Antarctica
An intuitive and classroom oriented data browser enabled students to access new rover data each day. Both Java and HTML version were presented
Middle School students


BigSignal 2000
Project Director and Systems Engineer: Peter Coppin
Interaction design for java remote experience interface: Peter Coppin
Web Designers: Peter Coppin and Richard Pell
Java Programmers: Brian Woo and Dawn Lambeth
Geology Consultant: Kurt Schwehr
Field Integration Lead: Michael Wagner
Education Manager: Junlei Li

BigSignal 1998
Project Director and Systems Engineer: Peter Coppin
Concept: Peter Coppin, Alexi Morrissey, and Bob Nametska
Web Designers: Peter Coppin, Bob Nametska, and Dawn Lambeth
Educational content creation [text and graphic illustration]: Peter Coppin
Educational content creation [video production]: Alexi Morrissey
VRML programming: Justin Glasgow, and Geb Thomas
"I robot" interface: Michael Wagner
Education Consultant: C.J. Rodkey [Keystone Oaks Middle School]

The Heinz Endowments
The Henry C. Frick Fund of the Buhl Foundation
The Grable Foundation