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Archive for Friday, July 18, 2003

Institute to include Lawrence’s first satellite uplink

July 18, 2003

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Erik Nelson opened a door in the Dole Institute of Politics, revealing a small room with high-tech equipment and wiring.

"This," he said, "was literally supposed to be a broom closet."

Instead, when Richard Norton Smith started as director of the institute and Nelson started as associate director, they opted to install Lawrence's first satellite uplink -- $400,000 in equipment they say will connect Kansas University with the world.

"The campus has a great academic richness," Nelson said. "There are dozens of professors who are among the top of their field. They don't get the type of exposure they deserve, and therefore KU doesn't get the exposure."

The uplink is a permanent version of the satellite trucks that news stations use to beam interviews from news locations. KU or others using the uplink will buy blocks of time on satellites -- which can cost up to hundreds of dollars for a few minutes -- to send their broadcasts.

Smith first got the idea for the satellite uplink from his own experiences as a frequent guest on "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on PBS. He had to go to Kansas City for the appearances because no satellite uplink exists in Lawrence.

But there will be other applications for the uplink. Other professors can more easily appear as experts for TV programs. Some Dole Institute events can be broadcast simultaneously in other parts of the world.

The institute also will include satellite download capabilities, to view or record events happening in other parts of the world or receive video.

Even the athletics department is excited about the new technology.

Mike Lickert, director of video services for the athletics department, said KU would be able to transmit video highlights from home games shortly after they're over. Now, TV networks must rent a truck if they want game highlights.

He said KU also would be able to transmit press conferences.

"It will really put KU up to par with the other Big 12 schools," Lickert said. "It's playing catch-up."

Nelson said he wanted to make the uplink a "community resource" available to anyone willing to pay for satellite time.

"We want to avoid the mistake that other universities have made in overpricing their equipment and pricing it out of the market," Nelson said. "We do not want this to be a profit center."

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