NORMAN — Researchers at the University of Oklahoma are partnering with NASA on a project that would enhance the agency's radar capability.
OU recently received a three-year, $750,000 grant to develop algorithms for a multi-antenna radar system. Officials said the digital signal processing algorithms would allow radar systems to take finer two- and three-dimensional measurements.
The grant is a part of NASA's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, which seeks to develop partnerships between NASA programs and colleges and universities, as well as private industry. Out of 52 proposals, OU was one of 17 institutions to receive a grant.
The radar system would have a number of applications, said OU professor Mark Yeary, the principal investigator. It will be mounted on a NASA spacecraft, he said, and could be used to measure forestation, soil moisture and crop growth on earth.
The project will begin in the spring, Yeary said, and is a good opportunity to get students involved in major research.
“The biggest impact is to have an ability to offer advanced training to students in areas of national need,” he said.
One of the chief components of the project is outreach, said Victoria Snowden, director of the Oklahoma NASA Space Grant Consortium. As the project progresses, Snowden said, researchers will be developing programs that work with science teachers, who will then incorporate portions of the program into their classroom lessons.
Involving K-12 teachers is a good way to boost young students' interest in science, technology, math and engineering, Snowden said. Raising that interest level is one of the chief goals of the grant, she said, and that's an easier task when teachers are able to incorporate projects like this one into their classes.
OU officials have been looking to expand the university's radar expertise beyond weather-related applications and into other areas, such as defense and security. Included in that effort is the construction of the $15 million Radar Innovations Lab, which will house the new NASA research project. University officials broke ground on the lab this month.
Yeary said he thinks the NASA project fits well with that goal, moving beyond an area where the university already has an established presence and into a new field.
“It just greatly builds on the weather strengths that we have,” he said.