Day 1: Marine Science Academy

Today was the first day of the 2009 Brad Sneeden Marine Science Academy.  This year we have 55 students from across Carteret and Craven Counties meeting at Carteret Community College in Morehead City, NC.  The students are all rising 7th, 8th and 9th graders who are giving up their first full week of summer for academic pursuits! The focus of this week is “Careers in the Marine Sciences”.  This is the second year of the program.

Today’s activities were located on and around the campus of Carteret Community College.  We started off the morning with an inquiry activity dealing with neutral buoyancy.  The students were asked to design a submersible that would remain in the middle of a column of water inside an aquarium.  We discussed positive and negative buoyancy, density, and the principles behind neutral buoyancy.  The students worked for nearly an hour and a half with one group finally having success.  During the activity, we took a few minutes to step back and discuss the formula for calculating density and played a quick game of “Will It Float?” a la David Letterman.  The students were quite surprised at the results from a regular Coke and a Diet Coke as well as the two large rocks (one of them being a giant pumice stone).  The student’s struggle allowed us to discuss how scientists don’t always succeed when expected and often have to rely on more than just trial and error for success.

IMG00027.jpg on Twitpic

Aquaculture

Next, we visited the Aquaculture facilities at Carteret Community College.  There students got a chance to view some of the marine animal husbandry program then headed out for some experience building oyster spat collectors.  Here our students let out some apparently pent up rage while making holes in the oyster shells for the collectors.  Other students helped fill bags with oyster shells to be used as sea walls.

NC State Seafood Laboratory

After a quick lunch, we headed over to the North Carolina State University Seafood Laboratory. At the Seafood Laboratory we split into two groups. The first group went inside to talk about fresh, summer seafood in North Carolina. We were given some information on how to determine if a fish is fresh at a market. There are a number of things to look for: slime coat, red gills, clear eyes, and no odor other than that of the ocean. We then got a look at some fresh flounder and mahi-mahi.

IMG00031.jpg on Twitpic

After some discussion of the fish and their habits along the NC seashore, we were treated to a snack of fresh fried mahi-mahi. The kids also enjoyed some Smoked Rainbow Trout jerky from the North Carolina Mountains.

After that, the group moved outside for some water sampling in the Bogue Sound. The group drew in two seine nets to examine the marine fish and invertebrates of the sound. We collected a large number of shrimp, some pinfish, a couple of cornet fish among others. There was also a chance to test water salinity, dissolved oxygen, and temperature. Students will be comparing their results from today’s Sound measurements with those they will gather tomorrow at Cape Lookout.

IMG00032.jpg on Twitpic

Carteret Community College Jet Propulsion Lab

Our final side trip for the day was over to the Jet Propulsion Lab at the community college. Here, students work on engine building and repair as well as basic boat building skills. Our first activity was a tour of one of the workshops.

IMG00033.jpg Jet Propulsion Lab at local community college on Twitpic

The connections to all sorts of other disciplines were amazing to hear. Our guide explained how boat building involves geometry and algebra, because none of the fanciest woodworking is done at 90 degree angles. He also explained the roll of biology in the selection of woods for boat building, giving the example of teak with its natural fungicides. I was also greatly impressed with his interest in history, discussing a number of pieces of wood from boats that were 50 to 100 years old, but with wood from trees that were an additional 100 years old. We closed out this portion of the tour with a look at the computerized router. With this router, students are able to use a program much like Microsoft Publisher to design an image to be cut into a piece of wood. The router then translates the image into a series of X, Y, and Z coordinates, and makes the cuts within a few minutes. The piece below, a tribute to teachers and students everywhere, was cut in under 3 minutes.

Boat building robot on Twitpic

Happy summer to all you teachers...made in 3 minutes by computer controlled router... on Twitpic

Preparing for Cape Lookout
The day’s final activities were a look at the GPS and Transecting equipment that will be used during tomorrow’s trip to Cape Lookout. Students will participate in a geocaching activity using the GPS units. They will hide an object on the Cape, record the coordinates, and exchange their coordinates with another group who attempts to find the hidden object. The transecting equipment will be used to collect data to generate a topographic map of a section of the ocean-side beach.

Overall, I think the week is off to a wonderful start. Look for some great pictures of activities taking place tomorrow over at Cape Lookout National Seashore!

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