During Winter Quarter 2015, we launched our Open The Oceans program, which features team-based design challenges. In two different challenges, student teams competed for the chance to accompany us on dives to the MT-6 wreck in Puget Sound. Student teams were recruited via Requests for Proposals issued to Seattle Central College’s Ready! Set! Transfer! (RST) program.
The initial RFP for Challenge 1 was very broad and challenged students to design a project that could be accomplished given the constraints of diving the site with OceanGate Inc.’s Antipodes submersible. The winning team of 3 women decided to pursue two threads of investigation. Their goal was to gather enough sonar data to reconstruct part of the wreck and use these data as input to a 3D printer being built as part of their capstone project for Seattle Central. The team also used video and still images taken during the dive to investigate possible preferential biological colonization on the wreck. A basic pattern of colonization preference was found for the eastern side of the wreck, and the team was able to create a large site map using the sonar data.
In Spring Quarter we enhanced the RFP process by embedding Challenge 2 directly into a physics class at Seattle Central College. The second challenge had more competition (10 students divided across 3 teams vs. 3 students that we combined into a team in the first challenge). The team from Challenge 1 mentored the teams competing in Challenge 2 by helping to design a physics lab based on the data we collected and serving as a resource for the new student teams. The Challenge 2 winning team also dove to the MT-6, this time in OceanGate, Inc.’s new Cyclops 1 submersible.
The experience of running these Challenges confirmed our belief in their power and appeal and prepares us to refine their design to inform our future expeditions. These challenges gave the student teams a lasting connection to the ocean, one they’ll be reminded of whenever they view the wreck location from the Seattle waterfront or pass over it in a ferry. All of our team members are planning to remain in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field, and several of them are motivated to pursue ocean technology and engineering in their future careers.
In addition to our Challenges, we held 3 different activities to reach out to future explorers and build our Open The Oceans Community. In February, OGF board member Stockton Rush brought his submersible Suds to the University of Washington and gave tours to high school students participating in Washington State’s ORCA bowl. In March, OceanGate Inc., unveiled Cyclops 1 at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. In concert with this event we created a set of interactive experiments for elementary school students that were visiting MOHAI. In August, during our Eye on the Sanctuaries tour with OceanGate Inc. to the Flower Garden Banks (see below) we gave a short dockside tour of Cyclops 1 to students participating in Texas A&M’s Sea Camp program in Galveston, TX.
We believe that enthusiastic student engagement is essential to a dynamic, positive educational experience. Our challenges are designed to maximize engagement for participants as well as their wider school community, generating Inspiration Through Exploration®. This engagement creates an instant connection for those students who are interested in STEM but do not have a motivating goal to remain so — it is nearly impossible to remain indifferent to science and engineering when you are planning on diving into the deep blue sea!