RENCI at ECU takes ROVER on the road

Greenville, NC—At East Carolina University (ECU), a newly outfitted and staffed RENCI Outreach Vehicle for Education and Research (ROVER) is fulfilling its potential on all fronts: education, research, and emergency response.

Thanks to the work and expertise of staff and faculty at the RENCI at ECU Engagement Center, which works closely with the ECU Center for Coastal Systems Informatics and Modeling (C-SIM), the ROVER has a busy travel schedule this fall.

With the addition of Outreach Coordinator Michelle Covi to its staff, RENC at ECU is set to send the ROVER on educational missions throughout eastern North Carolina.

Covi has extensive experience in science education at the K-12 and university levels and in communities. She comes to ECU from Normal, IL, where she taught college biology and directed a nonprofit organization that develops programs on ecological awareness for schools and businesses.

In eastern North Carolina, she will bring the ROVER to schools and community events, offering presentations on hurricane awareness, weather and climate change, coastal habitat preservation, and water quality. Covi already has obtained a mobile weather station for the ROVER and arranged a full slate of engagements at schools in Pitt, Johnston, and Beaufort counties extending through the fall and into 2009.

Because Covi knows firsthand the importance of supplemental science education—field trips from her native Baltimore to nearby woods and marshes sparked her own fascination with coastal ecosystems—she is excited to bring “virtual field trips” to a new generation of schoolchildren.

The ROVER now boasts custom interior furnishings including desk space and seating, lighting, and built-in equipment storage. Its more sophisticated equipment includes a server loaded with a Geographic Information System and other software, an array of laptops, a generator, and a comprehensive radio system with two antennas capable of receiving and broadcasting at all frequencies.

The radio operates on either electrical or battery power, so that it can broadcast under emergency conditions from almost any location. Paul Fletcher, associate professor at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine and an experienced amateur radio operator, serves as RENCI at ECU’s radio resource person. For many years, Fletcher has participated in emergency response with other amateur radio operators.

Through her work on hazard communication, RENCI at ECU Outreach Director Donna Kain has connected with emergency managers across eastern North Carolina and plans are underway to make the ROVER an integral part of the region’s network of emergency response vehicles in the event of a hurricane or other coastal catastrophe.

For more information visit or contact Michelle Covi at 252-737-1773.

— Story by Miriam Wildeman