Interim Report

Team Number: 002
School Name: Alamogordo High School
Area of Science: Earth and Space Sciences
Project Title: Probability of Lightning Strikes, From Ant Hill to the Sears Tower
Project Abstract: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/abstracts/002.html
Interim Report: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/interims/002.html
Final Report: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/finalreports/002/finalreport.html

Interim Report:
The Probability of a Lighting Strike

The current situation of our project is good, though continuing slowly due to some unexpected problems. First and foremost, we have lost contact with our mentor, John Ensworth. For about a month, Dr. Ensworth has not returned any of our E-mail messages. In addition, the 3D modeling lab that we had found on the internet during the Kickoff Conference in Glorieta has yet to be finished. At Glorieta, the lab was still in production, and is currently not completed.

We have also had some very important and helpful developments. Fearing the project deadline, we searched for other 3D labs or software that we could use. However, our limited budget witheld us from investing in any software. Fortanetly, we found the book "3D Graphics and VRML 2" by Laura Lemay, Kelly Murdock, and Justin Couch. This book is a tutorial on enhancing web pages with 3D graphics, as well as creating 3D worlds and terrains. This will give us a starting place for programming the 3D terrains needed for this project.

Following the lost of our mentor, we have begun looking elsewhere for the expertise needed in this program. We are looking at Physics textbooks and books specifically dedicated to lightning, (Dr. Ensworth had a few suggestions) but we feel that we will need some kind of expert due to our inexperience in this field. Because of this and the other complications, we are doing a great amount of reading and research. We are splitting up the different aspects of this project; 3D modeling and terraining, Physics with specifications in Lightning, and Advanced C++ programming; among us.

Despite these problems, the project is continuing as layed out in the abstract submitted at the Kickoff Conference which proceeds as follows:

This project will determine the probability of a lightning strike at a given point on a pre-constructed 3D terrain. We will include all elements and factors we are able to, restricted by unkown scientific factors, as well as time constraints and our lack of experience in the field.

Factors that will be considerd include the conductivity of metals and other substances contained within the given point on the terrain, meteoroligical conditions, and chance. The terrains included in the program will range from a mountain or plain landscape, to a suburban or skyscrapper landscape.

Due to the fact that our 3D modeling lab is based on the web, the rest of our project will also need to be based there. We are currently starting work on this site and are in pre-planning stages. This site will include an attractively simple cover page, with links to the pre-constructed 3D terrains, the program with documentation, a short tutorial on what is involved in a lightning strike, an explanation of how we wrote the program, and a visual display of a lightning storm striking a selected terrain using the probabilities derived from the program.

Due the complicated and elaborate workings of this web site, a strong, fast computer (preferably with 3D accelerated software) will be needed to comfortably view displays. Such a warning will be placed on the cover page as a simple courtesy to any user. The program page and the tutorials will not require any special needs or software so anybody can see the results of our work and learn about lightning.

This is also where a supercomputer will be needed. The complexity of a lightning storm and its strikes requires the power of a supercomputer. We will send the information from the program to the supercomputer to aid us in developing the lightning storm on the 3D terrain, which will ultimately be in the form of a movie.

We have also obtained a tutorial book on C++ programming. This book tells advanced programming techniques and procedures that will be needed for the complications of our project. We are aware that the whole program needs to be in C++ and that the 3D lab is going to be in VRML, but we need a starting place and VRML is just that.

In conclusion, we have high hopes for the end result of our work. We are excited to see a finished program with the elements we are planning to add, as well as to see the judges comments and opinions. We also hope to see the finished web site visited by many users hoping to learn as much about lightning as we did.

Team Members:

Sponsoring Teacher(s):

Project Advisor(s):

New Mexico High School Supercomputing Challenge