July 8, 2011

Ocean Engineering Experience

Teenagers Swap Free Time for Science
The MIT Sea Grant Ocean Engineering Experience

by Katrina Phillips, NOAA Sea Grant Knauss Fellow

July 8, 2011 -- It’s early July, and school is out for the summer – for most students. But for a dedicated group of teenagers, it’s time to take on an academic challenge. A challenge like building a 12-ft floating wind turbine with remote control to shore. In a week.

The Ocean Engineering Experience (OEX) is a week-long program for high school students created and facilitated by the MIT Sea Grant College Program. It is open to any rising junior or senior with an interest in marine science or ocean engineering, and no previous engineering experience is necessary. The OEX program includes tours of MIT laboratories, lectures by scientists and engineers, and hours of hands-on time to plan and execute a collaborative group project. “They want MIT life, they get MIT life,” comments MIT Sea Grant education consultant Brandy Wilbur. A typical day begins at 8 a.m., and students are often feverishly working on their construction until after 10 p.m. with their instructors and MIT-student mentors.

“We had a jam-packed schedule the entire time, which made it tons of fun,” remembers Brooke Winslow, a student from the inaugural 2010 class. She adds, “The experience was exhilarating and the mentors there taught us everything we needed, but the team had complete creative control.” Brooke enjoyed her time in OEX so much she applied to attend MIT, where she will begin as a freshman in the fall.

The 2011 OEX class of seventeen students, up from just eight last year, will tackle a new marine engineering challenge inspired by the Berkeley Building in Boston, Mass., which displays lights of different colors to indicate weather forecasts. The students will be tasked to use similar indicator lights to show variation in wind and solar power potential along the Charles River. What will this floating structure look like? It’s up to the students to decide. A public viewing of their product will be held July 15 at 1 p.m. at the MIT Sailing Pavilion.

NOAA Sea Grant (http://www.seagrant.noaa.gov/) is a national program with member institutions in 32 states. Each state program offers unique opportunities for the public to participate in projects to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine and Great Lakes resources. To learn more about projects near you, contact your local Sea Grant program or view the Sea Grant volunteer opportunity spreadsheet.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov or on Facebook.

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2011 OEX participants on the Charles River with their alternative energy vessel. Photo: Rachel VanCott

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