Summary of all my National Science Foundation funded Projects

National Science Foundation Project Title Organization Fiscal Year Total Award

1995 Wireless Field Tests for Education Old Colorado City Comm  $446,200

1996  Mongolia Wireless Field Tests Old Colorado City  $81,914

1997 Local History by Wireless Old Colorado City Historical Society  $20,000

 1997 Emerging Wireless Communications Workshop George Washington University $49,996

1999 Prototype Testing and Evaluation of Wireless Instrumentation for Ecological Research at Remote Field Locations Old Colorado City Communication  $1,259,097

2003 Miniature Wireless Ecological Networks, Scalable - MWENS Old Colorado City Communication  $99,775

Six projects over 7 years between 1995 and 2003 with $1,956,982 in NFS Grants. 



Credit should be given to Dr Gordon Cook for linking up an National Science Foundation Project Manager with me in 1995 that started events that ultimately spanned 10 years and $2 million in NSF grant funding through my Old Colorado City Communications company for a series of Wireless Research projects.

I got to know Gordon Cook years before as we met through the Arlington, Virginia Computer Conferencing service MetaNet. He was originally a scholar of Russian history, and was casting about for a new profession as a good researcher with an interest in, but little expertise, in technology, when he landed a short term Research project in the Congressionally and National Science Foundation funded Office of Technology Assessment. That office undertook technology assessments for Committees of Congress in areas where Congressional staffers simply did not have sufficient technical expertise to evaluate changing technologies which might be funded or regulated by Congress.

Since there were implications for many industries and companies in the technology assessment 'findings'  lots of high pressure lobbying by advocates of various technologies put him in a difficult position at times. For the area he had to 'assess' covered the then just emerging data networks - Internet TCP/IP and others - for National Research purposes. The Committee of Congress was Senator Al Gore's, who was fighting to get funding for what was called NRN - an integrated National Research Network which would link universities like MIT or Stanford to each other and government laboratories. While there is a standing joke about Al Gore claiming he 'invented' the Internet - which he didn't - in fact when he added the concept of funding, not just exclusively for high end industrial and government networking, but for that, plus for Educational - especially University level - education the terms of the debate changed. When he inserted the letter 'N' into the funding bill a second year making it 'National Research and Education Network' - NREN - his bill got some political traction. And the funding was broadened. Gore deserves credit for that. For it started to also fund K-12 networking.

Dr Cook had been tasked in OTA to do an assessment of the state - and future - of data  networking.

Cook knew of the success of Frank Odasz and my Big Sky Telegraph project which used grass roots - personal computers, modems, Fido nets, Unix and UUCP- level networking to advance K-12 scientific and math education even in the smallest and most remote rural schools. He knew that my vision was for the youngest student to be able to access the resources of the highest universities and national libraries and 'communicate' as well a collaborate with or intern - remotely - with working scientists and engineers.

So as  Cook worked on his project, he often called me for my advice, not just from my ideas of what data nets could be used for in education, but also to solicit my advice how to deal with the intense lobbying he was subject to. He also had to deal with NSF project managers who reviewed the quality and scope of his work. Even though it was controversial among many college 'professors; who said, in effect "We don't want snotty nosed high school kids messing around in our pristine networks in high science." While politically conservative Congressmen only wanted data networks to be built by Corporate, not Government entities. Even Gore's Staff assistant for his NREN Bill was against dragging public K-12 education into the debate.

But Cook was able to award me a small NSF contract to make the case in his study for K-12 educational networking, .which he believed would be a good thing in the long run. Which case I made, using Big Sky Telegraph and Dr. Johnston teaching high school kids the advanced math of Chaos as examples of what kind of education for future scientists should be supported by national data networks. My report even got the attention of Senator Markey who championed public education and the role of the Department of Education. He could also see the future coming as did Al Gore. (Interestingly enough, while it was Senator Gore's father who, with President Eisenhower that funded and built the Interstate highway system that provided public, not private, highways for the body, it was the Senator Son Al who envisioned a national network that would link American's minds. So I started using notion that the Internet would be Highways for the Mind. And large parts of it should be as public as the Interstate system.   

In the end I was credited for being the first advocate at the National level getting K-12 schools into the goal for national - NREN - data networks. Gore's Bill passed and IBM jumped on the dollars.

By the end of his work for OTA Cook was not sure where his next paycheck would come from. I suggested, having listened to him over the telephone for over a year  citing all the 'experts' whose opinions counted, I told him that he had now so many contacts in companies, labs, universities, he could go into business for himself as an analyst of communications - Internet - technology. He took my advice and started - which is still in 2012 his bread and butter  - The Internet Cook Report, which he is able to write from his New Jersey home, on his computer connected to the networks.  

Then, he, learning that Don Mitchell, a program manager in the National Science Foundation who awarded grants for science research projects, was very interested also in getting science and math into schools and K-12 students. So Cook introduced Mitchell to me. We hit it off. In part because he, an ex-Marine, appreciated my ability and drive to get things done.

Cook had told Mitchell that I was already connected up to the Internet from  a server-computer at Home to my Office 1/2 mile away, with a pair of the earliest radios on the market manufactured in the US under new FCC rules for spread spectrum, frequency hopping, unlicenced bands.

Mitchell and one of his colleages, Dr Steve Goldstein connected up to my web server over the Internet from their office terminals in their NSF offices in Washington DC, the last half mile from my Old Colorado City Communications premises being wireless.

The robustness of the connection, and the fact that the last leg of the link was free, unlicensed and relatively secure, wireless, impressed them. I was clearly experimenting on the cutting edge of wireless technologies.

So Dr Goldstein flew out to Colorado Springs to meet with me in my home. After I showed and explained to him how my FCC approved system with the newest Cylink radios worked - linking my computer server at home, through thick trees, to my server in my OCCC office at no communications cost - he asked me if I would accept a $500,000 NSF grant to experiment with advanced Wireless for Education. I replied yes, but I was only interested first in connecting up very rural schools to the Net. That urban schools would be easy and relatively cheaply to connect up even by wires or fiber. He, on behalf of Don and thus the NSF, agreed.    

Before I was done, my Old Colorado City Communications company, with me as the 'Principal Investigator'  and - at first - with my second partner after Louis Jaffe - Larry Fox, and then when he died my junior partner daughter Rebecca Clark as OCCC's 'institutional' representative to the NSF I became the recipient, first of the $460,000 3 year grant for 'wireless education' then  $1.5 million more in grant awards over 7 more years researching  'Field Science' data gathering by wireless from the jungle of Puerto Rica through the lake country of Wisconsin, on the tundra around Fairbanks, Alaska, and the deserts of southern New Mexico - to connecting up the National Library and Academy of Science in Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia to the rest of the world by low end wireless as well as satellite, Internet.

In the next several NSF Project Chapters I will describe and comment on each of the above projects.

The overall look at the several projects can be found at this URL  (Now this web site was actively updated from 1996 through 2006, but has not been changed since then. So some links may not work aby more.)

The NSF required that I make the reports by means of a running Web Site, and present at a series of Conferences, rather than by just submitting traditional  papers. Which was fine by me. I long since did all my work on computers and online.

National Science Foundation Project (2) and following reveals the individual field projects I pursued and my commentary on my doing them, apart from the specific tasks, results, and findings.



a                                 The NSF Wireless for Education Project  

The details of the $460,000 three year (1995-1999) project can be read through this final report URL below. But below I will comment here on the significance of the project, which launched yet another Hughes Pioneering effort that culminated on the slopes of Mount Everest in 2004.

As I had commented earlier, I kept casting around for some kind of a wireless solution to rural school net connectivity from the time I got involved with Big Sky Telegraph education for several reasons:

1. I saw that personal computers were going to revolutionize business, education, politics, culture. I could see that coming in 1979. For within 20 years of the arrival of the first 'personal' computer in 1977 all these areas have been profoundly affected. School children - including rural children needed to learn how to master and effectively use computers over networks from a young age. So they would use them as readily as their parents learned to write with pencils and typwiters and communicate by paper mail and fetch information from other than libraries and schools.

2. Personal computers would, over time, be evermore more affordable to individuals.

3. But the greatest revolution would come when all these small devices - and therefore the minds of persons using them - were connected together. While voice-grade telephone lines networked the nation, they were inherently limited in their bandwidth. And dedicated digital wiring was not likely to reach the whole country - wherever people live and work, for a very long time, if ever. The costs of extending such lines would be astronomical.  'Rural' is another word for 'space.'

4. In point of fact 25% of the population of the US lives on  97% of the land of the US, while 75% of the populaton - in relatively dense cities - live on only 3% of the land area. "Wiring up" dense cities is far more economically feasible than wiring up rural populations, both because of sheer distances between where people lived and work - and go to school - and the size of 'markets' to pay for advanced connectivity. 

5. So wireless would be both desirable and needed to span the long distances between, and within, sparsely populated rural areas. While theoretically 'satellite' delivered Internet service is feasible - it will always be costly.

My First Digital Radio

I first read in one of the technical discussion groups on the Well - Stewart Brand's Computer Conferencing system where many techies  - and 'digital minded ham radio operators -  hung out about a new class of radios that the FCC had recently approved of. Radios whose signals were controlled by computer processor chips. The same computer chips that enabled personal computers to be made in mass.

They were called frequency hopping 'Spread Spectrum' radios, whose digitized signals rode on a wide band of frequencies - spectrum - and not just one radio frequency licenced- by the FCC - to use one narrow single-user frequency band. So more than one radio could be communicating on the same band 'frequency hopping' within that wider band while not interfering with each other. It was the magic and speed of computers processor chips that permited that radical change from all previous radios. Suddenly there was no more 'scarcity of spectrum' sold only to the highest bidders.

But THAT was not the  news that caught my attention. That was that the FCC had ruled that frequency hopping radios made within certain specifications could use bands that long ago had been set aside for low power (and very short range) 'Industrial, Scientific, and Medical devices' the ISM Bands - WITHOUT A LICENCE! 

In other words these new radios, which could carry digital - computer data from and to computers such as text, or programs, or graphics could communicate with other like radios without a requirement for an FCC licence for the USE of those particular frequencies. Only the radio had to meet specification such as how many hops the processor had to make, how errors were handled, and what maximum RF power could be put out the radio port. So the communications could be FREE - with only the one time cost of a pair of radios and the personal computers they were connected to involved.

The only limitation was that every user had to 'accept' any interference from other radios that were legally approved. That only would come if a local area had a huge number of radios operating in the same space. Statistically unlikely.

The first off-the-shelf radios operated in the 902-928Mhz band, with up to 4 watts of FCC permitted power, that could reach, depending on the size and shape of the antenna at both ends,, flawless line of sight communications for miles (I learned that 10 miles was easily obtained, and in my first NSF project I attained 30 miles of reliable connectivity.) And being Frequency Hopping where the computer chip controlled the hopping not only could many pairs of radios operate at the same time in the same space, but - without encryption of the data - it was so scrambled that intercepting  what was being communicated was very difficult to unscramble (in fact that technology had been used for US Naval ship to ship radio secret communications since the late 1960s.)

The Global Wireless Revolution

I sensed a global revolution in the making. And a solution to the Rural School communications problem. I quickly looked for (1) radios I could use and (2) radio hackers whose knowledge I could use.

I found both when I first called by phone, then met Dewayne Hendricks - black engineer who had worked for a large computer company, was a 'digital' ham radio operator.  Early Cylink radios were being used to span the Platte River in rural Kansas to carry only voice telephone traffic from a telephone office on each side of the wide river where stringing wires on poles was not feasible. The radios operating strictly under FCC rules which had to certify and approve the design of the radios before they could be sold in the marketplace, as well as used anywhere. 

Immediately I sensed a global communications revolution in the making. Dewayne sensed my enthusiasm for such rural educational use of Spread Spectrum unlicenced wireless and offered to come to Colorado Springs at my home, and install a pair of Cylink radios - one on my house roof, the other on the roof of the Templeton Building 1/2 mile away within which was my Old Colorado City Communications company and Server.

I also had learned - starting to do my radio theory and practice homework - that the lower the frequency the more amount of foliage, and thickness of walls the signal could punch thorough. The Cylink radios had no trouble going through the Bancroft  Park Forest of trees to link up with each other.

It was that half mile spread spectrum FCC Part 15 Wireless Link that convinced Don Mitchell to award me as Principle Investigator, assisted by Dewayne Hendricks, and Dr Johnston ready to deliver math education wirelessly over $400,000 to see how far the new technologies could reach school kids minds in very rural America.

I was off on another Pioneering journey.



The Improbable Inventor - Hedy Lamar



One requirement for any National Science Foundation research is the usual requirement that the Principal Investigator digs out any 'prior art' for what he is researching. During my research I encountered a US Patent that was co-authored by the 1940s Actress (called the most beautiful woman in the world) Hedy Lamar. She in fact spawned the idea of 'frequency hopping' radios in 1941 - as means for the Navy to guide torpedos by radio in a way that could not be intercepted or jammed.

Since I was aware of her from the time I was 13 years old in the 1940s I was struck by the inscapable facts of that US Patent and her role in it, which led to modern unlicenced and substantially secure wireless communications - such as Blue Tooth, CDMA wireless telehone connections, and more recent Wi-Fi Internet Connecttivity. So I nominated her in 1996 for the Electronic Pioneer Award of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She not only got it, she was awarded, in Austria - her birthplace - the prestigious "Kaplan Award' from the Austrian Academy of Sciences while she was living at 83.

A great deal of publicity followed my nomination - even a series of articles, books and movies have been issued on her and George Anteil's story and patent - several of which are new in 2012.

Here is a look at a portion of US Patent # 2,292,387


There was some dispute whether her Patent was ever 'reduced to practice' by the US Navy. As far as for guiding torpedoes in WWII, it was not. But after I got Hedy Lamarr world publicity by sucessfully nominating her for the Electronic Frontier Foundation Award - which she got in 1997 - a one-time (1950s) private Contractor for the Navy saw her award, emailed me to show that he designed, for the Navy, a sobabouy system to permit secure wireless communications to travel between a microphone (for detecting submarines) and a passing Naval plane. He based it on her frequency hopping patent of 1942.




My Scientific American Article 

In April 1998 I was asked by prestigious Scientific American to write a piece that explains Frequency Hopping still very much used (Blue Tooth wireless is a frequency hopping radio, and field scientists prefer it because it penetrates vegitation and walls far better than Wi-Fi) and  how it Differs from Direct Sequence, the basis of Wi-Fi. I co-authored the piece with Dewayne Hendricks with whom I worked as the Principal Investigator of the entire 7 year NSF wireless projects. They also wanted the Hedy Lamar story. Here it is as a 3 page PDF file.


My Scientific American Article on Spread Spectrum and Hedy Lamar


The Biological Science Projects


After I proved out the values of unlicenced "Wireless for Education" under a $450,000 NSF grant in the early 1990s, I was awarded another $1,500,000 to apply what I had learned to a series of Biological Science Data Collection Projects which were in remote places, and presented many new challenges.

They included collecting Scientific data in the Rain Forests of Puerto Rico, out on the lakes of Northern Wisconsin, in the cold climates of remote central Alaska, and a final series on data collection on the deserts and mesas of Southern New Mexico.

If you go to this URL you can read 54 illustrated reports, ending with overall Findings, and implications for Regulators of Wireless, especially the FCC.



The San Luis Valley Project

As I had told Mitchel and Goldstein from the NSF, that I wanted first to try to link up very rural schools to the Internet, with the new Spread Spectrum wireless technologies.

So when the final approval came for my NSF 'Wireless for Education' grant, I had already selected the public school in the very small Hispanic town of San Luis, Colorado, the second oldest town in all Colorado.

San Luis is on the western edge of the 100 mile long, 50 mile wide, flat San Luis Valley, which was an ancient lake bed. The Sand Dunes national Monument is in that valley 20 miles north of San Luis, which has 30 small towns all spread out north to south and east to west of that valley, with the largest town in the center Alamosa, which had Western State College in it.

The only place in the San Luis Valley that was connected up to the Internet was Alamosa, the College and businesses there. The town - its school - in San Luis wanted to be connected to the Internet that its educators knew about.

But US West, which provided rural telephone service throughout the valley wanted $2,000 per month to extend a T-1 (1.5mb) line the 40 road miles between the school in (San Luis north to Fort  Garland, then west to Alamosa) to an  Internet provider. Completely unaffordable to the school.

Thirty Mile 'Free Wave' Radio Connections

So I did two things: First I went to Boulder, Colorado to look over a set of  Spread Spectrum, Frequency Hopping, 902-928Mhz radios from Free Wave Technologies. They produced 4 watts 'EIRP' of radiated power and were quite configurable. And quite low cost in comparison with the list price of the Cylinks I had been using - in the range as I recall of $250 each. I would have to attach a pair of directional antennas I was sure to each radio. I ordered 4.

I then did my obligatory 'Site Survey' both at the Alamosa and San Luis ends. In Alamosa the situation was perfect. A tall radio tower - at least 30 feet -was on the roof of a downtown building that served a number of short range, in town, radios, which were connected to the Internet. I affixed the base radio well up on the tower and by compass direction only, aimed a rod antenna in the general direction of the town of San Luis.

The San Luis end was much more problematic. For the town, and its school, are down in a 'hole' behind a tall ridge that blocks any view of far away Alamosa. The ridge contains the famous 'Stations of the Cross' sculptures by famous Humberto Maestas that many a pilgrim ascends, to reach the Church, La Capilla de Todos Los Santos  on top. There was a long winding very rough roadway to the top of the ridge, and I could see at least three large towers on top and on the shoulder of the ridge. One belonged to the Sheriffs Office in San Luis, but I learned it also served as a radio relay tower for the School - so school bus drivers who took and picked up kids radiating out from San Luis where there was always a danger of severe winter blizzards stranding buses filled with kids, could communicate by radio from and to the buses.

If the school was able to also use the Sheriff's tower, I figured it could be permitted to be a relay point for school supporting wireless radios.

So I drove up the muddy rutted road to the vicinity of the Sheriff's tower and found a hut that contained electronics for both the school and the sheriffs equipment. Good, for there was 110 volt wall power inside.

I was then able with my binoculars to scan westward until, voila!, I spotted the tower just peeping up over the dunes between where I was standing, 30 miles away, in Alamosa. i.e. we had partial 'line of sight' which radios would require. Excited, I even plugged into my cigarette lighter in my car, to a transformer, then to a small Free Wave Radio, attached a smaller directional antenna to the radio with about 4 feet of cable, and pointed it toward Alamosa and again, voila, I got a 'connected' light on the Free Wave!

We could connect 30 miles away!

But then there was a problem I had to overcome with some clever engineering.

I really needed to get that antenna at or near the top of the Sheriff's tower, in order to both (1) clear the ridge I was standing on enough so that the reflection of the bottom half of the oval shaped signal (Fresnel Zone) would not hit the close by ridge, and thus diminish the strength of the signal.  (2) I couldn't put it where I had been standing on the ridge when I got the good connection - because there would not be any wall power to power the radio.

But by eyeball looking up at the 50 foot high or so Sheriff's tower, whose base was down on the shoulder of the ridge, I could not tell whether an antenna on top the tower would give a clear line of sight the 30 miles to the tower in Alamosa.

So I had to hire a surveyor in Alamosa to come out with his theodolite so we could measure just how much clearance the antenna beam would have - without me trying - at 53 - to climb that tower myself! I would have to hire a pole climber later to drag a heavy antenna cable to the top and fasten it every 10 feet or so.

So I got the surveyor to put his instrument right on the ridge which was online between the tower and the Alamosa tower 30 miles away. And then had him sight in on the Alamosa tower, note the precise angle, which was less than a degree from perfectly level with our ridge, then flip the theodolite 180 degrees, factor in the partial degree  and see where it intersected the Sheriff's tower. 

It cut the tower 7 feet below its top! So we had 7 feet clearance over the top of the ridge toward the Almosa tower 30 miles away!

Now the only question was whether the elliptical envelope of the radio beam aimed at Alamosa would be chopped too much by the ridge and reflect away too much power of the sparse 4 watts of energy to maintain a connection? To calculate that I had to get, from Free Wave the exact angle of the bottom edge of the ellipse of a spread spectrum 902mhz 4 watt power 'envelope) at 125 feet from the antenna which is how far back the Sheriff tower was from the ridge highest point on line to Alamosa. 

I did the calculations and less than 10% of the bottom portion of the radio beam in the envelope would intersect the top of the ridge, and bounce away to be reflected into space, losing that much energy in the beam, which is not like a laser, but as a long envelope, which at its mid point at 30 miles would be as much as 50 feet thick.

10% seemed acceptable loss, which would only mean the strength, thus dataate of the signal would be perhaps 10% slower.

Whew! So it would work. I hired the tower climber who climbed the Sheriff's tower to the top, affixed the directional rod antenna (about 5 feet long) to the top, aimed at Alamosa, had the copper-core (less loss) rubber cable connected to the back of the antenna and weather sealed, then fastened the cable every ten feet to about 7 feet off the ground, then was connected at the roof level of the radio shack, and inside connected with the Free Wave radio itself, whose signal then went via RJ45 into a server that passed the data signal out to a second radio, whose antenna was on the roof of the shack aimed at the roof of the school about a half mile away, where the final antenna was affixed aimed back at the second radio antenna, and its data signal then went from the roof of the school, down into a classroom where it was connected to the school computer. 

Everything worked. All the calculations were good enough. And the students and teacher in the Small school in San Luis was fully connected to the world wide Internet.

A major achievement, and proof of what such radios could do for education. The only cost to the school was about $50 a month to be connected to the Internet service in Alamosa. 

Many Progress Reports and Case Studies 

That first San Luis to Alamosa Success, became the bedrock of a whole series of other wireless projects. If you go to the URL below that will take you to all of them.