STEM at Sea Week 2011
In early May, K-6 students in Juneau's schools enjoyed a break from the classroom during Sea Week, an annual learning event focused on Southeast Alaska's marine environment. Students participated in a wide variety of hands-on activities in both indoor and outdoor settings, including an activity sponsored by JEDC's SpringBoard/STEM education program at the spectacular facilities of NOAA's Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute (TSMRI).
Activities coincided with National Lab Day, and JEDC education specialist Bob Vieth celebrated Juneau's internationally renowned federal laboratory by introducing 6th graders to SeaPerch submersible, remote-controlled robots.
Part of a nationwide initiative of the US Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) -- "Recruiting the Next Generation of Naval Architects" -- SeaPerch is administered by the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. SeaPerch workshops in Alaska are funded by ONR and by the US Department of Defense through JEDC's SpringBoard program. SpringBoard's educational emphasis reflects the US government's desire to better prepare young people for careers in technological fields.
On May 10th through 13th, 6th graders from both Juneau middle schools (Floyd Dryden and Dzantik'i Heeni) cycled through the "STEM pavilion" at TSMRI where a pool filled with 5,000 gallons of water served as the theatre of operations for ROV activities.
Participating students maneuvered camera-equipped ROVs through a variety of actions, using only computer monitors to guide them. The goal: to learn and experience how robots can be used in research to, for example, take the place of divers to gather important subsurface data from a body of water.
"This was more fun than a video game!" remarked one student. Said Vieth, "It's the optimal learning experience: kids engaged, having fun and learning, all at the same time."
The SeaPerch activity at Sea Week also stimulated interest among the students' teachers to participate in SeaPerch trainings so they can include ROVs in their classroom curriculum. The STEM team is offering SeaPerch professional development workshops in Juneau--open to all Alaska teachers--in late September.