Teaching teachers about ROVs

ALPENA – The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is hosting classes this weekend for teachers and 4-H leaders who will learn how to build and control remotely operated underwater vehicles and take their experiences to classrooms, clubs, and programs.

Sarah Waters, sanctuary education and outreach coordinator, said the overall goal of the workshop is to teach teachers and leaders skills to incorporate in their communities and classrooms.

“We’re teaching teachers and leaders so they can go back and teach it to others,” Waters said. “(Friday) they are building ROV frames and putting motors together. (Today) they will add tools and test it in the water.”

Overall, Waters said the workshop provides hands-on learning experiences to build ROVs, while using marine science, technology, engineering and math skills.

“A lot of people from different counties, schools, and 4-H groups from all of our surrounding areas are participating,” Waters said. “We have a total of seven groups – teams from Fenton, Tahquamenon schools in the U.P., Au Gres, and Alpena area schools.”

The free workshop also provided participants with materials and ROV building workbook for professional development. Waters said at the end of the workshop, after all of the ROVs are built and tested at Plaza Pool each team will be invited to take their projects back to their communities.

“Some will teach what they learned in classrooms and others will bring it back to their communities to help kids form teams and participate in ROV building competitions,” Waters said. “We want them to use ROVs and explore the water closest to home.”

Some of the teams participating in this weekend event include Janel Woodward of 4-H and Tina DenBleyker of Bingham Arts Academy. Both Woodward and DenBleyker are working together and learning as students to further educate others while providing ROV programs.

“It’s our first day, but we’re like students, learning by doing,” DenBleyker said. “It’s very exciting.”

Alcona 4-H representative Les Thomas said the experience will assist in creating an after-school program and other student enrichment and community projects.

“I’d like to get an after-school ROV program going, but we also have a short-term goal in mind. We’re going to take it out on the ice in about a month during the Don McEwen Ice Fishing Tournament. We usually have at least 100 youth involved with volunteers. It’s a cool family event,” Thomas said. “Down the road, I’d like to work with students in an after-school program.”

Brandon Schroeder of the Michigan Sea Grant said his main interest is promoting learning through hands on learning initiatives.

“The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative’s goal is getting kids engaged in learning and involved in environmental stewardship,” Schroeder said. “If kids can learn to build cool things like this for competitions, maybe they can use ROVs for environmental stewardship.”

Michael Fields, a fourth grade teacher at Au Gres, said the district is in the process of implementing ROV technology and marine sciences as a school-wide curriculum. He said the learning experience will be applicable because most residents live near Lake Huron.

“We are planning on starting in our elementary school, fourth and fifth grade, but as students progress so will the program,” Fields said. “I got the idea because I work on committee levels for the Michigan Department of Education, another committee member got me excited about it. I talked to our superintendent, he agreed that we should get this going.”

Bret Hiveley, an Au Gres junior, also attended the workshop and plans on assisting Fields with the new curriculum.

“I’ve always been interested in learning about water and new technology. There’s a lot to find out,” Hiveley said. “I’m here to get the hang of ROVs and to help with the class later on.”

Emily Siegmon can be reached via e-mail at esiegmon@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687.