Design the "Next" Palmer Station

Teacher Background

During the course of LFA 2, students have been exposed to a wide variety of research on board the Polar Duke, on Zodiacs, at Palmer itself, and on islands all around the station. They've seen trawls and dredges, miniature greenhouses, regurgitated penguin meals, and found out how you track wild creatures without interfering. Now they have a chance to dream up new and more effective ways of doing all this, with human laws (the Antarctic Treaty) and laws of Nature (climate, ice dynamics) being exactly as they are now... but with budget as no limiting factor, and with emerging and perhaps still unproven technologies as possibilities. NSF is not going through any such redesign for Palmer at the moment (as it is for the South Pole), nor does it expect to replace Palmer soon. But... this may have been one of the last seasons for the Polar Duke, since it's close to the end of its long-term charter. But LFA 1 showed students were so intrigued by an Activity inviting them to redesign Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station that we decided to adapt that challenge to Palmer.


Students will identify the key elements of a full-scale research facility/facilities, focusing on marine biology and earth science in the Antarctic.

Students will evaluate current conditions and propose a design for a new research facility/facilities (ship-based or land-based) on the Antarctic Peninsula.



Based on what they've learned and observed, brainstorm a list of the challenges faced in living and working at Palmer Station. Next, review and list the research currently undertaken there.

Continue discussion with the following questions: Are the current living conditions in place at Palmer the best that can be devised for the small support staff and scientists who live there year round? How might they be improved? Take all suggestions. Should it be land-based? Above ground or below? Water-based? Both? Can you think of any examples (real or imagined) of self-contained, fully self-sufficient habitats already tested, or in the planning and execution stages?


Explain to students that, working in small design teams, the class will design and construct a new Palmer research habitat/science laboratory that will house about 25 people over the winter and up to 75 people in austral summer. (The current base is "max'd out" at 45, and worthwhile research projects may go unsupported for logistical reasons.) The key design teams are:

Designers will need to consider several things as they make design decisions:


  1. Divide class into 5 "design teams" as above. Distribute Blackline Master #19. Review and discuss design challenges, suggested work strategies and timeline for completion.
  2. While groups are completing Phase 1, teacher should monitor progress, facilitating ideas, research needs, and, if possible, ensuring appropriate access.
  3. Design teams should be encouraged throughout this process to talk to other teams, sharing ideas and strategies. No group should work in isolation!
  4. Encourage students to be active participants during Phase 2 presentations: the evaluation component is meant to broker the most robust ideas, not be a contest.
  5. Before beginning Phase 3, the class should come to consensus regarding the final design product. (This could be a 3-dimensional construction, a drawing, a CAD graphic, a computer-generated presentation using HyperCard, HyperStudio, Kid Pix, PowerPoint, ClarisWorks slide show and others, or any other workable idea the team agrees upon and that can be implemented in a reasonable time frame) [Note: Look for a new HyperCard plug-in that allows stacks to be served over the Web.]


Share your team design via the LFA 2 website Student Work gallery.

Create scale drawings of your Palmer Station design.

Investigate the use of Computer-Assisted Design (CAD) software applications to create a final design presentation.

Suggested URLs

Detailed information about Palmer Station: history and projects conducted.

U.S. Long-Term Ecological Research Network: major milestones and research

Live From Antarctica 1's (Dec '94-Jan '95) Activities included designing a new South Pole station.

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