College of William & Mary Virginia Institute of Marine Science awarded NSF Education Grant

September 25, 2011 - via National Science Foundation

RAPID: Underwater Robotics Applied To STEM Education: A Time-Sensitive Discovery In Marine Archeology

Investigator(s):
Mark Patterson mrp@vims.edu (Principal Investigator)

Sponsor:
College of William & Mary Virginia Institute of Marine Science
P.O. Box 1346
Gloucester Point, VA 23062 804/684-7000

NSF Program(s):
INFORMAL SCIENCE EDUCATION

ABSTRACT

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and The Watermen's Museum, Yorktown, VA, will produce an underwater robotics research and discovery education program in conjunction with time-sensitive, underwater archeological research exploring recently discovered shipwrecks of General Cornwallis's lost fleet in the York River. The urgency of the scientific research is based upon the dynamic environment of the York River with its strong tidal currents, low visibility, and seasonal hypoxia that can rapidly deteriorate the ships, which have been underwater since 1781. Geophysical experts believe that further erosion is likely once the wrecks are exposed. Given the unknown deterioration rate of the shipwrecks coupled with the constraints of implementing the project during the 2011-2012 school-year, any delays would put the scientific research back at least 18 months - a potentially devastating delay for documenting the ships.

The monitoring and studying of the historic ships will be conducted by elementary through high school-aged participants and their teachers who will collect the data underwater through robotic missions using VideoRay Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and a Fetch Automated Underwater Vehicle (AUV) from a command station at The Watermen's Museum. Students and teachers will be introduced to the science, mathematics, and integrated technologies associated with robotic underwater research and will experience events that occur on a real expedition, including mission planning, execution, monitoring, and data analysis. Robotic missions will be conducted within the unique, underwater setting of the historical shipwrecks. Such research experiences and professional development are intended to serve as a key to stimulating student interest in underwater archeological research, the marine environment and ocean science, advanced research using new technologies, and the array of opportunities presented for scientific and creative problem solving associated with underwater research. A comprehensive, outcomes-based formative and summative, external evaluation of the project will be conducted by Dr. L. Art Safer, Loyola University. The evaluation will inform the project's implementation efforts and investigate the project's impact.

The newly formed partnership between the Waterman's Museum and VIMS will expand the ISE Program's objectives to forge new partnerships among informal venues, and to expand the use of advanced technologies for informal STEM learning. Extensive public dissemination during and after the project duration, includes but is not limited to, hosting an "Expedition to the Wrecks" web portal on the VIMS BRIDGE site for K-12 educators providing real-time results of the project and live webcasts. The website will be linked to the education portal at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the world's largest organization devoted to promoting unmanned systems and to the FIRST Robotics community through the Virginia portal. The website will be promoted through scientific societies, the National Marine Educators Association, National Science Teachers Association, and ASTC. Links will be provided to the Center for Archeological Research at the College of William and Mary and the Immersion Presents web portal--consultants to Dr. Bob Ballard's K-12 projects and JASON explorations. The NPS Colonial National Historic Park and the Riverwalk Landing will create public exhibits about the shipwreck's archeological and scientific significance, and will provide live observation of the research and the exploration technologies employed in this effort.

External link: http://nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward.do?AwardNumber=1149218

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Author:Arlene M. de Strulle

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