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Pioneering an Innovative Education Highway
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by Larry Wiss

Yul PyunIn the initial phase of the Coconut Island Telepresence project, students at Moanalua High School were able to participate from their classroom with a SCUBA diving researcher in a unique real-time underwater marine biology exploration around Coconut Island thanks to the combined efforts of ITS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's NMS (National Marine Sanctuary) program, MAIFE (Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration), and the HIMB (Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology). What makes this event unusual is that the audio/video experienced by the students wasn't from a pre-recorded presentation, nor was it a satellite feed; it was high-quality live audio/video transmitted entirely in a digital format over an IP (Internet Protocol) network; a complex configuration of equipment creating an innovative technological education highway that is used in very few other applications.

Telecommunications Engineer Yul Pyun took the lead for ITS in this Coconut Island Telepresence project which is funded by NMS, via wireless equipment donated by local technology startup Loea Communications. The long-term goal of the project is to place an underwater camera and perhaps an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) off of Coconut Island allowing people around the world to study the aquatic life in Hawaiian waters in real-time.

As an initial test of the system, a team from NOAA's NMS program and Mystic Aquarium (from Connecticut) conducted the live dive demo in conjunction with Moanalua High School. Pyun, himself a Moanalua alum , was on hand at the high school during the demonstrations that consisted of two classroom sessions in February during which biology students interacted with the diver on a real-time basis. Leading the classes, and assisting the diver in addressing student questions, were NOAA educator Patty Miller and marine scientist/researcher Dr. Kuulei Rogers of HIMB.

Yul's work on the Telepresence project entailed coordinating the acquisition and installation of communications devices such as milimeter-wave radios and WDM (wave division multiplexing) at Coconut Island, the DOE's Windward District Office at King Intermediate School and Windward Community College in order to connect to Moanalua via the main UH-DOE connect in Honolulu. He also had to follow up with troubleshooting the system through its successful operation.

This project is one of many highlights of Pyun's long association with the UH system which he began as a student at Leeward Community College. During a Communications class he was required to perform a simulated job interview on a computer. The assignment proved to be inspiring, “I was fascinated by the fact that I could interact with a machine, so the next semester I signed up for an Intro To Computer Science class;” noted Pyun who immediately changed his major. This new interest in computers also led to work as a student programmer in the computing center at Leeward CC.

From Leeward CC Yul continued his information technology education at the Rochester Institute of Technology where he attained a bachelor's degree in Computer Technology, graduating with a concentration in Application Programming. His bachelor's degree opened the door for several years of employment in the private sector as a Supervisor of Application Development in California before his return to Hawaii. Yul began eight years of IT work at Kapiolani Community College including responsibilities as Systems Administrator, Network Administrator, and Manager of the campus telephone system and mail operations.

The first position that Pyun held with ITS was as Project Manager of the HITS upgrade, also known as HITS2, perhaps one of the largest network projects of UH. He considers that project as one of his most rewarding IT accomplishments; “It was the most challenging, and required skills not only in technical networking with relatively new data network technology much of which are also used in the Telepresence project, but also with skills in dealing with people like vendors, users, administrators, techies, and government entities.”

Looking beyond the current state of computing technology that supports the Telepresence project Pyun thinks it would be fantastic if future computers could transmit more than merely sight and sound over networks, perhaps transmitting a sense of smell. Just as we're now able to send and receive a fax as a copy, he envisions the novel idea of possibly being able to transmit the components of smells which could be replicated by equipment at the receiver end; i.e. eCards with smells. Indeed an intriguing idea for traffic on a future stretch of a network highway.

Originally from Korea, Yul moved to Hawaii at age nine with his family. He and his wife Hira have two teenage children, son Justin and daughter Alyssa. An avid hiker and runner, he endeavors to someday run (or walk) the Honolulu Marathon.
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