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A virtual world where US students learn about palaeontology, biology and culture has been using BGAN to get them involved in real-life scientific investigations in Africa.

Over the past two years, students in Chicago and New York have entered the virtual world of Teen Second Life, creating avatars of themselves to role play as scientists in a simulated fossil expedition to Africa. During their "second life" they have been involved with real palaeontological digs in Tanzania and Zambia, contacting scientists via Inmarsat BGAN to ask questions to help them develop their skills.

Video instruction
The first initiative, called I Dig Tanzania, was set up and run by The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and Global Kids of New York City. They began by deploying a Wideye Sabre1 BGAN terminal with palaeontologists in Tanzania who were uncovering fossils hundreds of millions of years old. Audrey Aronowsky, scientific programme manager for the Biodiversity Centre at The Field Museum of Natural History, said, "The scientists sent back videos of their work to classes in Chicago and New York via BGAN.

Skype calls
"The terminal was also used for daily Skype calls in which the scientists talked directly with the students who were using Teen Second Life as an online virtual classroom, collaborating on projects across cities. Contact with the scientists enabled students to produce virtual digital museum 'exhibits' as final projects."
A Hughes 9201 BGAN was also deployed for the 2009 project, I Dig Zambia, where 17 US students partnered with the international science team and Zambia's Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust.

Secondary school
Audrey said, "This year one BGAN terminal was again used by the scientists. A second was used by a videographer and educational team in the village of Mfuwe, where students from the local secondary school sent videos and posted blogs via BGAN. The mobile satcoms again worked well and we're really interested in identifying other groups using BGAN for similar goals - teaching science and culture, to encourage dialogue between students in different countries."
The next Teen Second Life educational adventure will be I Dig Brazil in the autumn of 2010.

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