Center For Ocean Sciences Education Excellence COSEE TEK
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Ocean Science and Technology Institute (OSTI) with the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) - April 13-14, 2012

Eleven undergraduate and two graduate students spent two days immersed in ocean science and technology at UConn’s Avery Point campus and Project Oceanology. The students were part of UConn’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program that seeks to provide unique STEM learning opportunities for underrepresented students. The Ocean Science and Technology Institute (OSTI) was developed in collaboration with Joy Erickson, UConn’s LSAMP Coordinator and the goals were to provide students an orientation to ocean science and technology, expose them to ocean science and technology careers, provide them the opportunity to work as a team to build ocean technology and conduct hands-on oceanographic sampling on board the Project Oceanology’s EnviroLab2 vessel.

OSTI career panel
The OSTI began with an overview of ocean technologies followed by a panel discussion of careers in ocean science and technology. UConn scientists, technicians and graduate students shared their career path and interests with the students. The panel included (image shown right; participants ordered left to right) recent MS recipient, Kelley Bostrom, oceanographic technician, Kay Howard-Strobel, benthic ecologist, Dr. John Hamilton, ocean chemist Dr. Penny Vlahos, and physical oceanographer, Dr. Michael Whitney. The students shared their intended career paths at the university, which included a mix of engineering and life sciences.

building a hydrophone
The scholars then divided into teams and built hydrophones using a design developed by COSEE-TEK during a spring, 2012 Teacher Technology Experience working with teachers from the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, CT. Click here for detailed instructions and parts list. The students deployed their DIY devices in UConn’s test tank and in small aquaria to compare sound levels from sources internal and external to the tanks. They used the freely downloadable software "Praat“ to record and visualize a variety of sounds, including marine mammal recordings, anthropogenic noises, and even music from the King of Pop.

This hands-on experience to build ocean technology from the ground up elicited great teamwork, determination, a touch of competition and plenty of problem-solving. As one student explains:

“Building the hydrophones was personally the most valuable part of the experience because were able to take something from scratch, create it, and apply it.”

The next phase of the Institute divided the larger group into two, with one group touring UConn’s Northeast Underwater Research, Technology and Education Center’s (NURTEC) Underwater Vehicles Lab, while the other group tried their hand at piloting a mini-remotely operated vehicle through an obstacle course set up in the test tank. They all seemed to have a gift for flying the little VideoRay (modified with a probe) around the tank, retrieving rings off the bottom. Most students found the obstacle course to be too easy so wait til’ we up the ante next year! The busy first day ended with a presentation of underwater videos taken from around the world by NURTEC scientists, providing the opportunity to see larger ROVs in action.

The second day of the OSTI was devoted to an on-water experience on Project Oceanology’s EnviroLab2 vessel. The undergraduates worked as a team to conduct hands-on sampling using plankton nets and retrieve a trawl net by hand, followed by a discussion of the biology and ecological role of the various organisms caught in the trawl. They also had a chance to deploy their hydrophones and test them in a real-world environment to record the ambient noise of Long Island Sound. This was considered by many to be the highlight of the institute, evoking the following comments:

“I enjoyed making the hydrophones and testing them in an actual, real environment, instead of how we do in lab in class where we are just told to do things with no real application and absolutely NO PURPORSE AT ALL. Building these and learning why they work and how was a valuable experience.”

The first phase of the COSEE-TEK / LSAMP collaboration was a big success! A wonderful group of young scholars at the University of Connecticut learned a great deal about ocean technology, specifically the application of hydrophones to study acoustics in the marine environment. COSEE-TEK hopes to grow the program and broaden participation to minority students at other institutions next year.

OSTI cruise participants
Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) participants and COSEE-TEK staff after the cruise on Long Island Sound (April 14, 2012)