Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Just Curious: Specialized Vehicles for Teaching in the Field?

Cross-posted from Geotripper...

I'm thinking of shooting the moon and applying for a grant to purchase a rolling laboratory for field trips, and I'm having a hard time choosing which way to go with this. It's pie-in-the-sky in all likelihood, but what would you do if you could design a vehicle to enhance teaching of earth science in the field?

I'm thinking of a utility vehicle or even a small van-sized RV that could handle fairly tough road conditions (gravel roads at least) that is outfitted with a satellite link and wi-fi router that could provide internet access in isolated campsites, as well as a printer and scanner. We've thought of the most rudimentary RV type of vehicle because a toilet and inside or outside shower can be a godsend in some circumstances (like when someone gets sick). Fridge and small stove maybe.

One very expensive option is a Jeep-based unit from a Colorado company that is an absolutely stripped RV (fridge, bath, shower and queen-sized bed...really!) that can go on literally any road. I like that the electricity is provided by the engine and a roof-mounted solar array. It gets reasonably good mileage, too. Made by special order. And very expensive. Did I say that already?

On the other hand, Roadtrek offers a complete (and very comfy, but you didn't read that) RV that is packed into a van chassis that is no longer or wider than an 8 passenger van. It has all the stuff already listed plus a lot more storage space. But I look at it and think, "wow, six students could work at once on projects on their computers and desk surfaces!" but I have this uncomfortable feeling that a grant evaluator would think "this professor wants a nice place to sleep" (not true, I like sleeping under the stars). This option is actually about $30,000 cheaper than the Jeep.
These might be over the top, so perhaps a truck with utility cabinets, camper shell and an electronic array under the seats in the cab? No place to work, no printers, etc., but a lot cheaper.

Does anyone have anything like this? Have you ever thought about it and what you could do with such a resource? I would love some feedback about the teaching possibilities of something like this. For those who are new to Geotripper, I teach geology at a community college, and usually deal with introductory-level geology students.

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