Innovative EarthTutor automated instructional system will tap NASA remote sensing
and imagery resources to create an effective, interactive learning experience

SAN MATEO, California, June 22, 2004 – NASA has awarded Stottler Henke Associates, Inc. ( a contract valued at nearly $600,000 to further develop an intelligent tutoring system (ITS), called EarthTutor, that will visually and interactively teach earth science to high school and college undergraduate students, using NASA satellite imagery and related NASA public domain software. The two-year project, which runs through December 2005, aims to create a computer-based teaching system that offers the benefits of a one-on-one human instructor. EarthTutor will demonstrate image processing and earth science skills and concepts, ask questions, offer challenges, monitor and assess the student, and provide contextual guidance.

Over the past 15 years, Stottler Henke, a software development and consulting firm that specializes in artificial intelligence (AI)-based work, has developed many ITSs for NASA and other government and commercial clients. Stottler Henke ITSs are scenario-based training systems that let students assess situations, generate solutions, make decisions, and carry out actions in realistically complex situations. By enabling students to apply their knowledge and skills in a wide range of typical and exceptional situations, ITSs help students quickly acquire expertise that would ordinarily require years of experience.

EarthTutor will challenge a student with an earth science problem, then provide coaching, hints, and other automated instruction to help the student use the image processing tools to solve the problem. Significantly, it will enable teachers to incorporate satellite imagery labs into their curriculum, which traditionally has been a challenge due to the software learning curve, the cost of many image processing tools, and the difficulty of obtaining imagery. Satellite imagery affords students a broad view of the complex interrelationships within an ecosystem, resulting in a clearer and deeper understanding of environmental science and issues.

Stottler Henke is working with professors at Stanford University, the University of North Carolina, and Albion College to develop labs for EarthTutor. “Stottler Henke’s EarthTutor holds great promise as an earth science instructional tool. It offers an engaging image processing experience beyond what was previously possible in the lab, while bringing together NASA satellite imagery and the knowledge of earth science experts,” said Kevin Arrigo, Assistant Professor of Geophysics at Stanford University, and instructor for a course entitled Remote Sensing of the Oceans. “I’m excited about the prospect of using EarthTutor with my students.”

EarthTutor integrates with NASA’s Image2000 software, public domain software specialized for the display, analysis and processing of satellite imagery. Its pluggable, modular architecture allows developers to build new components, such as EarthTutor, that extend the program’s core functionality.

Stottler Henke is developing a tutorial authoring tool to complement the EarthTutor system. The tool will be basic enough to allow teachers to construct tutorials to fit their curriculum, but also powerful enough to allow professional producers to create highly interactive tutorials that engage students in unprecedented ways. In addition, it will enable teachers to localize lessons with imagery from their geographic area.

“Remote sensing plays an increasingly important role in city planning, agriculture, resource exploration and many other areas, so we plan to approach established GIS and remote sensing training institutes to incorporate EarthTutor technology into their software,” said Aaron Bell, EarthTutor project manager at Stottler Henke Associates. “We also see potential applications for the core technology of EarthTutor in a variety of image processing tools for civic and industrial purposes, such as medical imaging, chemical imaging and homeland security screening.”

The contract to develop EarthTutor is an SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) Phase II award, funded by theNASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Founded in 1988, Stottler Henke Associates, Inc. applies artificial intelligence and other advanced software technologies to solve problems that defy solution using traditional approaches. The company delivers intelligent software solutions for education and training, planning and scheduling, knowledge management and discovery, decision support, and software development. Stottler Henke’s clients include manufacturers, retailers, educational media companies and government agencies. Stottler Henke was named one of the “top 100” companies making a significant impact on the military training industry in 2003 by Military Training Technology magazine.

June 22, 2004