The workshop was attended by approximately 50 participants from Africa. They included university professors and graduate students from 9 countries including Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zambia. The lecturers included over 25 GNSS experts from the US and Europe. Boston College ISR members supporting the workshop included Chris Bridgwood, Charlie Carrano, Susan Delay, Gopi Seemala, Cesar Valladares, and Patricia Doherty.
The workshop integrated formal lectures with hands-on practice in GNSS architecture, signal structure, hardware design, state of the art applications and scientific exploration using GNSS. An on-site computer laboratory gave participants ample opportunities to perform positioning calculations; to use mapping and surveying software; to plan a precision farming procedure; and to analyze atmospheric and ionospheric data – all from GPS measurements.
In addition, participants built LEGO Mindstorm robots to demonstrate the basics of autonomous navigation. Surprisingly, this was the first time many of the participants had seen LEGOS. They also utilized single-frequency GPS receivers in a treasure hunt that was creatively planned by our instructors. In this hunt, teams of 4-5 participants departed at 10 minute increments to navigate a course that spanned the ICTP campus. The winning team returned in just over an hour while other teams took much longer navigating this course. It’s possible they stopped for a gelato.
At the completion of the workshop, participants were given textbooks on GNSS and were awarded with Certificates of Completion. They also donned Boston College baseball caps which they wore proudly!
One of the benefits of this program for the ISR was that our scientists had opportunities to discuss common interests with African scientists. A number of ISR’s research programs utilize GPS ground and space based measurements to observe ionospheric and space weather phenomenon. With Africa’s proximity to the magnetic equator, it is of great interest to space weather scientists. Unfortunately, studies over the African region have not been possible due to the lack of dependable, long-term measurements. This workshop enabled an opportunity to establish a base of measurements for joint studies with our African colleagues.
The prime sponsors for this workshop included the ICTP, Boston College, the Institute of Navigation, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. These sponsors together with the lecturers and African participants represent a diverse collection of people who are committed to provide GNSS technology for socio-economic benefits and scientific exploration in Africa.
Overall the workshop seemed to be a great success. Many of the lecturers commented that this was the most enriching teaching experience of their career. The African participants said that they learned a lot and were very appreciative of the opportunity to partake in this program.
Visiting dignitaries and sponsors from the African Union, the Economic Commission of Africa, the Italian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the Institute of Navigation, the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the U.S. Air Force were impressed by the program and encouraged us to continue this effort.