Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum reveals its first ever tweeting ott - WSMV News 4

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum reveals its first ever tweeting otter

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(Source: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum) (Source: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum)
Salpointe students (Source: Sarah Streb/Physics & Engineering Teacher, Salpointe Catholic HS) Salpointe students (Source: Sarah Streb/Physics & Engineering Teacher, Salpointe Catholic HS)
The tweeting otter (Source: Maria Hechanova) The tweeting otter (Source: Maria Hechanova)
Camera in the otter enclosure (Source: Maria Hechanova Camera in the otter enclosure (Source: Maria Hechanova
(Source: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum) (Source: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Tuesday, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum revealed its first-ever tweeting otter thanks to the help of local students who haven't even graduated from high school yet.

The six-year-old female river otter, doesn't have a name, but she's packing the online punch with adorable personality-filled tweets. 

Museum officials say she's different from any of the other animals on Twitter, because she triggers her own tweets. 

She talks about what she's doing throughout the day, her advice, facts about river otters, and upcoming events. 

Here she is in a yoga posed appropriately hashtagged "Downward Facing Otter." 

Follow her @DesertOtter here. 

Gina Compitello-Moore, Marketing Specialist with the museum says they thought about using the mountain lion for the animal Tweeting project, but the otter seemed to fit better. 

"The otter is one of most playful animals and when we were looking for an animal that would look great on Twitter, we thought the otter would be fantastic. She moves around a lot, she's really charismatic, she's fun and she's a great way to showcase the desert museum and an animal that you don't always think about being a desert dweller," said Compitello-Moore.

Animal keepers at the museum tell Tucson News Now river otters can be found living in the Verde River northeast of Phoenix.

The wild ones though, don't have the tools like the @DesertOtter to tweet.

Six seniors from Salpointe Catholic High School are the brains behind making this all possible.

They designed an automated photo-tweeting system which involves two above-water motion-activated cameras.

Both cameras are located in the otter's exhibit. One is near the underwater viewing glass. The other, by a rock.

Whenever she gets in front of a camera, it automatically takes a picture.

All the movement can generate dozens of photos in one day, so to avoid posting blurry or meaningless selfies, there's a system in place to control what she tweets.

Once the photo is taken, it generates a tweet and a pre-written caption that museum staff must approve before it posts to the web.

The students that developed this system are following the University of Arizona's Engineering 102 curriculum. Salpointe High School teacher Sarah Streb says this real-world project taught her students about meeting real-world deadlines. It took the students almost eight months to finish it. Two professionals from Rincon Research Group mentored the group, but Streb says the students wrote all of the computer code.

"The kids made the twitter account, but that wasn't the important part of it," said Streb. The important part was the automating of the photo-taking, the auto-making of the emailing. Everything is completed automated."

She added, "We live in this world where everything is based on computers and if you don't know how to program them, you don't understand the basics of what everything you use," said Streb. "There's this huge lack for computer science education and so one of the things I've been doing with my students is to have them get more experience with programming so that they can get better jobs, get a sense of what most engineers spend a lot of their time doing."

Lead student on the project, James Quigley says he had fun, but learned some real-world lessons including meeting tough deadlines.

"It was definitely difficult to manage splitting up the work between everybody with all the work that needed to be done, but it was really interesting, great learning experience making the connections that we did," said Quigley.

Desert Museum officials were inspired idea after learning about the tweeting Honey Badger who lives at the Johannesburg Zoo in South Africa. Watch his video here:

In conjunction with the Twitter account launch, the museum is also looking for the public's help to name the otter. Click here to submit your suggestions:

The Twitter Handle for the otter is @DesertOtter. 

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now All rights reserved.


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