Putting lessons in ocean technology into action
Article originally published on Cordova Times.
by – Cathy Pegau
A few weeks ago, Paul Bednarz’s sixth graders were at the pool, but none of them got wet. No, they weren’t in the pool, their ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) were, performing a series of tasks to show how well they could maneuver and clean up a simulated oil spill.
Through the Prince William Sound Science Center’s Discovery Room Education Program, the students participated in bi-monthly sessions on ocean technology. Starting in October, science education director Kara Johnson and education staff Marita Kleissler and Lindsay Butters gave them in-class instruction about the variety of technology used for things such as oil spill detection and response and gathering data from the ocean environment.
In March, the students designed their own ROVs. The class was split into five teams and given the parameters of the tasks their vehicles would need to accomplish. Armed with the knowledge of how the ROVs would operate and a materials list, the teams designed their ROVs to skim the water for “oil” (in this case, ping pong balls), maneuver through hoops, and corral or hook other objects. But ideas on paper didn’t necessarily translate into function. They quickly learned what would and wouldn’t work, modifying their vehicles as they built them.
The Discovery Room ROVs consisted of five parts: the frame, the motor, the tether or umbilical, the control unit, and the battery. Each basic kit included PVC pipes and connectors, foam for flotation, tape, netting, and a pre-built motor/control unit and batteries. The teams were allowed to add extra pieces if they wished; one group included a small underwater video camera.
Lessons in ocean technology gave the sixth graders an idea of the kinds of research happening today, and why math, science, and engineering are the subjects of the future. They discovered that experts in the field have an important but difficult job to do. “I learned that cleaning up oil is hard, and we’ll never get it all out of the water,” said Jamille Esquerra.
“Working with the other people was tough,” was a common response when the kids were asked about the most challenging aspect of the program. But they listened to other members’ ideas and suggestions and got the job done together. Since they only had one session in the water, operating the vehicles was the next most challenging thing, and also the most fun. “I liked seeing ours flip around,” said Josi Moffitt….
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