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NEWS

The New Hampshire

Friday, October 4, 2013

Telepresence at UNH connects State Medicaid


researchers to offshore ships commission starts
By CATIE HALL
Staff Writer

With 12 monitors on one wall


and more computers, desks and
communications systems against
another, the telepresence room at
UNH is technology that might look
at home on the Star Trek U.S.S.
Enterprise.
The telepresence room, among
other ocean science projects, was
one of the highlights at Ocean Discovery Day on the UNH campus on
Saturday, Sept. 21.
Tara Hicks-Johnson is an outreach specialist for the Center for
Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint
Hydrographic Center at UNH. She
said that the purpose of Ocean Discovery Day is to let the community
know about the science going on in
the lab.
According to Brian Calder,
research associate professor at the
Jere A. Chase Ocean Engineering
Lab, almost every federal research
project has an outreach component.
In one way or another, the money
ends up coming from the public
purse.
Its really part of our job to
tell people what we do, he said.
In order to tell people what
they do, the lab hosts Ocean Discovery Day, which celebrated its
fourth anniversary this year and
draws more people each time.
Calder said the first year of
Ocean Discovery Day brought
out a couple hundred people. This
year, there were over 1,000 visitors.
Therefore, it was no surprise
that eager middle school students
filed in and out of the telepresence
room while they shot questions at
Adam Skarke, a physical scientist
at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of
Ocean Exploration and Research.
There were displays on each
of the monitors in the telepresence
room on Ocean Discovery Day
that showcased pictures from ship
explorations that used high-definition cameras to take pictures and
videos hundreds of meters below
the oceans surface.
Children asked about the fish
that had multiple protrusions or
bulbous bodies; adults asked how
it all worked.
UNHs Center for Coastal
and Ocean Mapping webpage explains that there are few telepresence rooms in the country, making
UNH a unique home. The master
console is at the University of
Rhode Island.
Based on the webpage description, The purpose of these
telepresence consoles is to conduct
research remotely, collaborate
with researchers who are unable to
be on location, educate the public
and promote international collaboration. UNH has participated in
over a dozen research missions using this technology since the system came online in 2005.
To break it down, Skarke said
the purpose of the telepresence
room is to connect to ships with
live feed from the Remotely Operated Vehicle on board and commu-

nications systems.
The governments National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration webpage describes
the technology of the ROV, which
consists of a bell-shaped camera
sled, a science-class ROV and a
small xBot, all of which can operate as deep as 6,000 meters.
Skarke made it clear that the
ROV can lead to more thorough
sea exploration. The mission, he
said, is to go where no one has
been before.
The ship stops when the crew
believes they find something interesting, Skarke said, and can send
down a ROV that has high-definition, movie-quality cameras and
mechanical arms. In essence, what
the ROV sees, the crew sees.
The feed gets transmitted
from the bottom of the ocean, to
the ship, to a satellite and then to
the telepresence room.
Skarke coordinates sea expeditions, and he said that he only
has 19 beds on the ship. That
means that the ship cannot hold
experts in every field, like physics, because they dont know what
they will find.
Instead, experts can come into
the telepresence room or view its
live-feed online. Without having
to be on the ship, the experts can
analyze the feed and explain to
crewmembers onboard what to do
next.

UNH has participated in over a dozen


research missions
using this technology since the system
came online in 2005.
Skarke said that hundreds,
and sometimes thousands, of scientists all over the world are involved in the exploration and conversation about what the crew is
seeing because of the telepresence
technology.
Although the telepresence
technology is seven years old at
UNH, Calder said scientists are
still finding new and surprising
ways to use it.
I think it has changed the
way we think about doing science
on the ocean, Calder said.
The telepresence room has
been affecting the Center for
Coastal and Ocean Mapping at
UNH since it was first launched.
For the past seven years, Calder
said the telepresence room has
changed how sea explorers experience the scientific method.
Calder explained that, typically, scientists propose a hypothesis
and then develop an experiment
to prove or disprove their initial
hypothesis. When they finish their
work, they usually have a conclusion to their hypothesis.
However, the exploration
ships go by a different scientific
method.
What the ships of explora-

tion do that the telepresence console supports is to try and change


that slightly, Calder said, so that
instead of focusing on Heres the
hypothesis, we want to go here
and do some work, please give us
money which is how it typically
works the ships of exploration,
the goal is to work with old questions and form new questions, so
go to places where we havent
been before or we were a very
long time ago, but the instruments
werent as good.
As an example, Calder said a
ship from France moved across the
Atlantic when it ran into problems
with some of its equipment.
Before the telepresence room,
Calder said they would have had
to send people out to the ship and
spend several days trying to figure
out the problem and get everything
working again.
With the travel to and from
the ship, that method was timeconsuming and costly.
Therefore, with the ship from
France, Calder and other scientists
got in touch via the telepresence
room and helped troubleshoot.
We got the ship to send us a
video-feed of what they were seeing, Calder said, and then we
had scientists and the director sit
at the console here [at UNH]. We
had the engineer from the manufacturer in Seattle and then the
Director of Operations for the ship
was in Ireland. We had everybody telepresenced together and,
over the course of two hours, we
ran a whole bunch of tests.
In the several hours that the
team was working, they remediated the problem over the telepresence system.
While the telepresence room
gives scientists a new way to look
at ocean science, its not all good,
Calder said.
On Sept. 9, 2001, Calder and
his crew were surveying in the
Gulf of Mexico when their sonar
broke. They had to go into port,
and Calder said everyone was
depressed to have the equipment
stall.
However, everyone got to experience something that lifted their
spirits and reminded them why
they came.
We were cruising into Panama City and it was glassy cap
outside it was like Mill Pond,
Calder said. The moon was out,
really, really bright, no clouds, flat
caps. Everyone was on the back
deck and just when we were
leaning on the rail thinking [we
were not having] much fun, a dolphin came right up to the ship and
crested just under the water so it
had this thin film of water over its
head, broke the water, breathed,
then went back under the water.
Calder explained that most
of the people he works with love
going out to sea. When he talked
about the dolphins in the Gulf, his
face beamed.
Something you miss if
youre not actually at sea, Calder
said after he explained his encounter with dolphins. So, thats one
of the downsides to telepresence.

narrowing discussion
By HOLLY RAMER
Associated Press

CONCORD A special
panel considering whether New
Hampshire should expand its
Medicaid program to poor adults
broadly agreed Wednesday to recommend adding residents under
age 65 who earn up to 138 percent
of federal poverty guidelines.

If New Hampshire
decides to expand its
Medicaid program
as part of the law,
the federal government would pick up
the full cost for the
first three years and
90 percent over the
long haul.
The majority agreed with
the overall idea of expanding
Medicaid for those earning about
$15,000 a year for a single adult
and $32,500 annually for a family
of four, while relying as much as
possible on private insurance.
They differed, however, on
what circumstances should automatically trigger a shut down if the
expansion became too costly.
New Hampshires current
Medicaid program covers lowincome children, parents with nondisabled children under 18, pregnant women, elderly residents and
people with disabilities.
The commission was established as a compromise in the
budget debate. Democratic Gov.
Maggie Hassan and the Democratic-led House wanted to authorize
Medicaid expansion in the budget
bill, but the Republican-led Senate
insisted on establishing a commission to study the issue first.

Join

The panel faces an Oct. 15


deadline to make recommendations to the Legislature, and began voting on half a dozen key
elements of a proposed expansion
plan, including the covered population and involvement with the
private insurance market.
Members backed expanding
an existing program where the
state pays to keep someone on his
or her employers private insurance plan if its more cost-effective than Medicaid and making the
program mandatory, though doing
so would require a federal waiver.
They also voted in favor of
giving those who arent eligible
for that program the option to get
individual premium assistance to
purchase private insurance through
the new online markets central to
President Barack Obamas health
care overhaul law.
If New Hampshire decides to
expand its Medicaid program as
part of the law, the federal government would pick up the full cost
for the first three years and 90 percent over the long haul.
Most panel members also voted in favor of requiring the Legislature to reauthorize the program
if the federal government reduces
its support.
Rep. Neal Kurk suggested requiring the Legislature to reauthorize the program if the states costs
increased by more than 20 percent
a year.
There are very limited financial resources in this state and we
need to make very sure we can afford what we do, he said, noting
projections that show the states
costs increasing $20 million in
2022 and beyond. That sounds
like a new tax to me.
But other members disagreed,
and no consensus was reached on
the issue. The panel meets again
Tuesday.

TNHonline.com

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