July 30, 2012

High School Students Participate in MIT Sea Grant’s Ocean Engineering Experience

The Ocean Engineering Experience (OEX) is a one-week, hands-on, residential ocean engineering program for high school students entering their junior or senior year. This program is designed to engage students in challenging real-world educational activities that are not offered in the typical classroom environment. Each year, participants are introduced to the field of ocean engineering and are submerged in a real world scientific problem with the task of tackling an ocean engineering challenge. They are instructed to work in teams to design, build, and test a marine vehicle or structure that can solve the problem presented.

OEX 2012 is designed and conducted by MIT Sea Grant Educator Kathryn Shroyer -- herself an MIT Mechanical Engineering 2009 graduate. Shroyer says this year’s participants are an especially select group with a variety of classroom engineering backgrounds. “We have students from around the country, and we even have one student from Greece and one from Guam,” reports Shroyer. “It’s a dynamic and diverse group, and they are bound to learn a great deal from each other, as well as from the guest lecturers and the MIT Sea Grant staff.”

Three undergraduate mechanical engineering students will act as mentors, and will assist Shroyer in implementing the program. MIT students Georgia Van De Zande and Sarah Brennan, along with Olin College student, Riva Kahn Hallock will stay in the MIT dormitory with the high school students. The mentors will chaperone, advise, and assistant in labs throughout the one-week intensive camp, which has a packed schedule of activities beginning at 8 a.m. and running through 11 p.m. daily.

The challenge this year involves the design and construction of a student-built, remotely operated vehicle (ROV), modeled after the Sea Perch. The teams will receive lessons from MIT staff and guest lecturers, who will provide vital information on all aspects of building and employing unique ROV designs. Students are split into teams of four and will role-play as ROV design firms contracted by the local power plant, Kendall GenOn, which cools its equipment with water from the Charles River and then discharges the hot recirculated water back into the river. The student teams will be charged with designing a vehicle to help Kendall GenOn test the water quality of various areas of the Charles River potentially affected by the hot water. The teams will undergo two design reviews to justify their vehicle design decisions before they commence construction. Shroyer and her assistant mentors will provide constant feedback, ideas, and suggestions as the students work to fabricate, test, and troubleshoot their projects.

The program will culminate with a public presentation at the MIT Museum on Saturday, August 4, 2012 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m., during which time each design team will present their vehicle, and will be required to provide clear justification for each engineering decision, along with the data they collected with their newly constructed underwater robots.

What is a Sea Perch?
The Sea Perch is a simple, underwater, remotely operated vehicle made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe and other inexpensive, readily available materials. The Sea Perch Program, created by the MIT Sea Grant College 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. Over 300 teachers in 16 U.S. states and countries around the world have implemented Sea Perch, which receives major support from the Office of Naval Research.

About Sea Grant
The mission of the MIT Sea Grant College Program is to employ innovative research, education and outreach strategies to responsibly use and sustain the vital marine resources of Massachusetts. The issues manifested and addressed locally are global in nature, and are thus widely applicable. 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.


The OEX 2012 presentation will take place on the first floor of the MIT Museum, located at: 265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139. This event is free of charge and open to members of the press and the public.

Please visit the program blog to follow daily updates as OEX 2012 unfolds throughout the week: http://seaperch-blog.mit.edu/

Contact: Judith Pederson MIT Sea Grant College Program Tel: 617-252-1741 E-mail: jpederso@mit.edu


OEX 2012 students take data from the Charles River using a conductivity temperature depth device.