Posts Tagged ‘Science Education’

VIDEO — Teachers participate in hands-on science research on UGA Skidaway Institute research cruises

June 20, 2016


UGA Coastal Summer Course at Skidaway Institute

July 13, 2015

Scientists use underwater robots to excite students about science

December 4, 2014

Educators and scientists from the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the UGA Marine Extension Service have developed a novel education program based on ocean robots to spark an interest in science and mathematics in middle and high school students. The team invented a board game that lets students explore different strategies for navigating autonomous underwater vehicles, called AUVs or gliders, through the ocean.

The program, “Choose Your Own Adventure,” capitalizes on Skidaway Institute’s expertise with AUVs and MAREX’s extensive history of marine education. Skidaway Institute scientist and UGA faculty member Catherine Edwards and MAREX faculty members Mary Sweeney-Reeves and Mare Timmons are directing the one-year project, which demonstrates the decision-making process in “driving” gliders.

Gliders are untethered, torpedo-shaped vehicles that are launched into the ocean to collect data as they move through the water. They glide up and down by adjusting their buoyancy and pitch. Gliders can remain on a mission for weeks at a time, equipped with sensors and recorders to collect observations of temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and other biological and physical conditions, even under the roughest weather. Every four to six hours over their mission, they surface and connect to servers on land to report their position and vehicle and mission information. They also can send data back to shore or receive new instructions from pilots anywhere in the world. Skidaway Institute’s glider, nicknamed “Modena,” has been used in several recent projects, including “Gliderpalooza,” a simultaneous, cooperative launch of dozens of AUVs from different institutions in 2013 and again in 2014.


Skidaway Institute scientist Catherine Edwards and MAREX faculty member Mare Timmons (far right) cheer on a small child who tried her hand at the “Choose Your Own Adventure” game at Skidaway Marine Science Day on Oct. 25.

“Gliders are education-friendly, but the existing outreach activities are stale,” Edwards said. “We are developing the next generation of AUV outreach programs by combining cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research with educational activities and strong STEM components.”

The AUV activity/game is a part of an outreach program targeting mostly middle school students and it highlights the problem of working with the strong tides that are characteristic of the Georgia coast. A big issue in operating gliders is developing a guidance and navigation system that will function well in strong currents. The fast-moving Gulf Stream, located roughly 100 miles off the Georgia beaches, also introduces navigation problems.

“Although the AUVs have Global Positioning Systems and can be programmed to travel a set course, tidal and Gulf Stream currents can exceed the glider’s forward speed, which can take the instrument off course and keep us from collecting data where we need it,” Edwards said. “By estimating forecasts of these currents in advance, our software system can predict the best possible route for the glider to take, which helps collect the best possible data.”

On the education side, the predictability of tides makes the proposed program highly intuitive and education-friendly. The activity/game incorporates student role-playing as an AUV maneuvers through a playing field of vector currents on a game board. The student decides how many of his or her moves to spend fighting the current and how many to spend moving toward the finish line. Successful arrival at the destination depends on how the individual pilot responds to currents en route.

Activities depend on grade level, so middle school students have different objectives than those in high school. However, all the activities address the direction and speed the AUV travels to a destination. The AUV direction and speed will depend on the sea state, such as strong currents, storms or high winds.

Teachers April Meeks and Ben Wells from Oglethorpe Academy have offered their classes as a test-bed for the game. The two have worked closely with the team to integrate classroom concepts into the game and guide discussions about strategy based on the math. Since the activities are multidisciplinary, the teachers’ expertise in building a math curriculum has been valuable as the team integrates concepts of marine science, math and engineering into classroom activities. Rolling giant dice is a fun activity that attracts the students—everyone wants to roll the dice. So far, the feedback has been very positive.

“The students really seem to love it,” Sweeney-Reeves said. “More importantly, they are making the connection between the game and science, and learning.

“It took a period of time for some students to understand the concept but after starting the second round, they had the game/activity figured out. The excitement peaked at Oglethorpe Middle School when Mr. Wells played against the students and we really saw the competition heat up.”

Edwards added, “We knew we had a hit when we saw students jump up in celebration when the currents were favorable and pout when they were blown off course.”

The team demonstrated the game at the campus’s annual open house, Skidaway Marine Science Day, in late October, with a life-sized version of the board game with giant dice. Over 120 students played the game, racing against each other as they explored different strategies to win in three- to five-person heats. Sweeney-Reeves and Timmons also rolled out the game for educators at the Georgia Association of Marine Educators annual conference on Tybee Island earlier this month.

“The conference attendees were excited to use the giant dice to roll and hedge their bets on where they could navigate to the finish line,” Timmons said. “This is much like how the AUV is programmed to reach its sampling assignment in the ocean.”

Timmons said the teachers at the conference laughed as they saw the big game board spread out on the sidewalk. “Towards the end as teachers were close to the finish line they shouted, ‘right!’, mentally trying to encourage the roll of the die to their advantage.”

Timmons and Sweeney-Reeves think the game has real-life applications and hope the students can use the concepts they learn in the classroom for swimming in our own local waters. The next step is to expand the classroom demonstrations to Coastal Middle School in Chatham County and Richmond Hill Middle School.

The activities allow students to develop analytical skills in a program that will be compliant with Next Generation Science Standards for the 21st Century in the common core state curriculum.

“We hope this one-year program will serve as a springboard for future funding and continued joint outreach by Skidaway Institute and Marine Extension,” Edwards said. “We’d love to develop computer games and apps for tablets and mobile phones that let students fly gliders through even more realistic scenarios based on the measurements we collect in real time.”

The program is being funded through a joint grant from Skidaway Institute, UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach, and the UGA President’s Venture Fund. The UGA President’s Venture Fund is intended to assist with significant funding challenges or opportunities. The fund also supports small programs and projects in amounts typically ranging from $500 to $5,000.

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is a research unit of the University of Georgia located on Skidaway Island. Its mission is to provide a nationally and internationally recognized center of excellence in marine science through research and education. The UGA Marine Extension Service is a unit of the Office of Public Service and Outreach.

For additional information, contact Catherine Edwards at 912-598-2471 or; Mary Sweeney-Reeves at 912-598-2350 or; or Maryellen Timmons at 912-598-2353 or

Skidaway campus open house a success!

October 13, 2009

We had a great open house on Saturday. Close to 2,000 braved the 88 degree heat and threatening rain to visit the campus  for Skidaway Marine Science Day.

The event featured exhibits, programs and activities sponsored by the campus partners, including the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, the University of Georgia (UGA)Marine Extension Service Aquarium, the UGA Marine Extension Service Shellfish Laboratory, the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and WSVH Georgia Public Radio.

This year, a number of outside environmental organizations also participated.

Below is a sample of some of our photos. Look here to see the entire collection.

Visitors build their model plankto for the Plankton Sink Off Race

Visitors build their model plankto for the Plankton Sink Off Race

Tours of the Research Vessel Savannah are always popular.

Tours of the Research Vessel Savannah are always popular.

Young visitors get up close and personal with marine life at the Aquarium touch tanks.

Young visitors get up close and personal with marine life at the Aquarium touch tanks.

The horseshoe crabs attracted interest.

The horseshoe crabs attracted interest.

Skidaway Institute scientists, like Clark Alexander shown here, explained their research to visitors.

Skidaway Institute scientists, like Clark Alexander shown here, explained their research to visitors.


"Put 'em to work!" Young visitors bag oyster shells for future use restoring an oyster reef.

"Put 'em to work!" Young visitors bag oyster shells for future use restoring an oyster reef.

Plankton World was busy all afternoon.

Plankton World was busy all afternoon.

Savannah State, SCCPSS and Skidaway Institute launch ocean literacy program

April 27, 2009

Savannah State University, the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) are joining hands to enhance science education in local schools through infusion of local research into the classrooms.

The three organizations are working together in a five-year program to engage graduate marine science students from Savannah State into science classes in neighboring schools. The “Building Ocean Literacy Program” is funded by a $2.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) GK-12 Program. The program will provide fellowships to eight graduate students in Savannah State’s Marine Sciences Program who will be partnered with K-12 teachers to deliver enhanced classroom instruction. The goal of the NSF GK-12 Program is to ensure that universities are producing scientists capable of communicating the results and significance of their research to broad audiences.

During summer breaks, teachers will have opportunities to participate in a workshop, in a research cruise aboard Skidaway Institute’s Research Vessel Savannah, and collaborate with the graduate fellows and Savannah State and Skidaway Institute faculty on research in the local estuaries.

“We want to promote the interest of K-12 students in the sciences, with an emphasis on coastal issues, and also improve the incorporation of marine sciences into the classroom curriculum” said Savannah State professor Carol Pride. “In addition, we hope to improve the communication skills of the graduate students to discuss science issues beyond the boundaries of a university campus.”

The graduate fellows will receive special training in communication, team work, and teaching skills through a K-12 training course and a weekly seminar. They will be paired with science teachers at Thunderbolt Elementary Marine Science Academy, Charles Ellis Montessori Academy, Sol C. Johnson High School, and the Oatland Island Wildlife Center. The graduate students will work with their teacher-partners to enhance hands-on instruction and to develop curriculum specific to their thesis research in the local marine ecosystem.

“The school system is excited to work with Savannah State and Skidaway Institute to give the teachers the ability to link topics in the Georgia Performance Standards to relevant, real-world situations,” said Horace Magwood III, Director of Science Instruction with the SCCPSS. “The summer research opportunities will certainly ignite a passion for science research with our teachers which will pass on to their students.”

Another key component to the program will be scientific research in the local estuaries and marshes. The teachers, graduate fellows, faculty mentors and K-12 classes will participate in monitoring of local estuaries and marshes, including monitoring water quality, sediment properties, and marine life.

“By including hands-on research in this program, the public school teachers and students will get a taste of what scientific research is all about”, said Skidaway Institute professor Peter Verity. “Science is more than lectures in a classroom,” Verity said. “The excitement of science is in the discovery of new knowledge.”

Savannah State graduate students will be selected for the program this summer. The program will launch in the schools in the fall.