Monday, July 23, 2012

“Look, a Shrimp!”—Driving an ROV

Students from Kit Pennell’s Chimacum School class 
are on Jim Norris’ boat, the Mary Beth, letting out 
or bringing in the ROV cable, which was an 
important job because it was necessary to 
keep it loose yet not let it drag on the bottom

Excitement ran high as middle and high school students scanned the screen for animals picked up on camera more than 150 feet below the surface. Another student steered the remotely operated vehicle along the sea floor. These students were getting to do something few people their age have ever done before—use a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to conduct their own research on deepwater marine life in northern Puget Sound.
Co-founders Judy D’Amore and Libby Palmer coordinated the ROV program in 2003, which gave about 100 middle and high school students from five school districts the chance to take part in a research cruise near the San Juan Islands.
The centerpiece of this unusual program was a research cruise in which they became operators of the ROV. Owned by Friday Harbor Labs, it was a piece of high-tech equipment capable of traveling to depths far beyond the reach of scuba divers. Equipped with a high-resolution video camera and capable of moving in all directions, it was operated by a driver at the surface, using a set of controls that would intimidate anyone but a teen.
Before their cruise date, each group of students spent weeks planning and designing a research project they would carry out on their cruise. When they boarded the vessel they quickly got to work, running their own study and taking turns driving the ROV. Students quickly mastered the controls and were soon using the ROV to explore a site being considered as a possible marine reserve in Skagit County. 
At the end of the year, four of the six student groups, none of whom had met before, came together to present the results of their ROV investigations to one another. Excitement ran high, but not just among the students. Also present were the collaborating partners: scientists, teachers and marine educators from two universities, one state agency and a non-profit marine education center, none of whom had ever worked on a project like this before. The adult collaborators had come to see what ideas a group of dynamic secondary science teachers would come up with if given the chance to use an ROV for a day--ideas for enlivening their science classrooms and bringing the world of marine science research alive for their students.

This is one of 30 reasons to give $30 to celebrate 30 years. Or increase your impact and give more. All funds support the Future Fund to keep the PTMSC going strong. Donate online or call (360) 385-5582, ext. 104, or send a check to 532 Battery Way, Port Townsend, WA 98368.

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