May 5, 2011

Sea Perch Institute Challenge

MIT Sea Grant College Program Announces
May 6, 2011, 9:30 AM – 1 PM, MIT Zesiger Center Pool

Cambridge, MA, April 7, 2011— The MIT Sea Grant College program will host the Sea Perch Institute Challenge at MIT’s Zesiger Athletic Center pool, May 6, 2011 from 9:30 AM to 1 PM. Nearly 300 middle and high school students from four schools will work in teams to address a complex engineering problem using remotely operated underwater vehicles they built themselves. The challenge: to analyze and remediate a deep-water oil spill resulting from a blowout. The Zesiger Athletic Center is located in MIT Building West 35 at 120 Vassar Street in Cambridge, near the corner of Massachusetts Avenue. Seating for spectators is limited – please contact if you are interested in attending.

The Sea Perch is a simple, underwater remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, made from PVC pipe and other inexpensive, easily available materials. The Sea Perch Program, created by the MIT Sea Grant College Program in 2003, trains educators across the United States and around the world to build the Sea Perch. Teachers then work with students to build their own customized Sea Perches and deploy them on research missions such as water quality testing. The hands-on Sea Perch experience is a gateway to further study and careers in robotics, engineering, marine sciences and more. Sea Perch been implemented by over 300 teachers in 16 US states and internationally.

The Sea Perch Institute (SPI) is a multi-year program that works with veteran Sea Perch schools to build upon the basic Sea Perch course with a more advanced and multidisciplinary curriculum. To be selected for the program, schools are required to demonstrate support from school administration and the involvement of multiple teachers and classrooms.

For the 2010-2011 academic year, MIT Sea Grant worked with Stoneham High School (Stoneham, MA), Dexter and Southfield Schools (Brookline, MA), Rogers High School (Newport, RI), and Swampscott Middle School (Swampscott, MA). For these schools, MIT Sea Grant has provided monthly classroom visits, mentoring, professional development opportunities, cost-sharing of supplies and materials as well as opportunities to bring students to MIT to tour labs and test vehicles. The students spent the year engaged in hands-on learning through simulated engineering experiences in marine robotics. The Sea Perch Institute was developed and implemented by MIT Sea Grant, and is sponsored by the Office of Naval Research.

At the May 6 event, students will be asked to analyze and resolve a deep-water blowout and oil spill using the Sea Perch vehicles they built themselves. The four SPI teams will work together to identify an appropriate plan of action, and to find the engineering solutions that will correct the problem as quickly as possible.

MIT Sea Grant engineer and member of the Sea Perch Institute team describes the advantages of this collaborative challenge as follows:
“There are many engineering challenges where some group does better than another, and students seem to love this sort of thing. I think though, that when someone wins and someone looses, the very essence of science is lost. Science is about collaborating and working toward an important solution, not winning and loosing.”

Just as in the real world of ocean engineering and emergency management, there won’t be a single possible solution, and there will be problems that can’t be anticipated.

The event will be organized in the following stages:
1. Containment and Observation
2. Damage Assessment / Mapping plume
3. Prepping the Well-Head
4. Capping the Well

School teams will be organized with specific tasks and checklists of what must be completed, what information is necessary, to move on to the next stage.

MIT Sea Grant College Program employs innovative research, education and outreach strategies to responsibly use and sustain the vital marine resources of Massachusetts. The issues we address manifest locally but many are global in nature. Compelling challenges demand our attention as a solo entity and in partnership with other groups living and working on the coasts and at sea. MIT Sea Grant brings the substantial intellectual abilities of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and our sister universities to bear on ocean-related challenges requiring an extraordinary technical contribution. In meeting these challenges, we expand human understanding of the ocean and establish the infrastructure to sustain the initiatives and talent pool needed to address complex issues of critical and fragile marine resources.

MIT Sea Grant College Program
Mail to: 77 Massachusetts Avenue, E38-300, Cambridge, MA 02139
To visit: 292 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02140


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