Manatee or Sarasota high school students interested in what happens below the ocean surface will have the chance to learn from marine researchers through a new program at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota.
High-school students and teachers can apply for the inaugural Ocean Technology Club fall season, which will start in late August. Each season will allow approximately 15 students and three to five teachers to attend meetings and activities twice a month at Mote.
“I would have loved something like this in high school,” said Jordon Beckler, manager of Mote’s Ocean Technology Research Program, who spearheaded creation of the Ocean Technology Club. “I’m really hoping that they see this as a fantastic opportunity to get hands-on experience with something that’s really going to benefit the real world. It’s a real science project.”
Selected students and teachers will explore oceanography, physics, chemistry, electronic circuitry and computer programming through projects, including deploying monitoring devices in local environments to working with Mote scientists using robotic gliders to monitor algae.
The club is the first of its kind in Florida, according to organizers. Collaborators include the University of Hawaii; the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division; and the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System.
Ocean Technology Club members will be selected through a competitive application process. The club is free to those chosen. Deadline to apply is Aug. 7.
Beckler said commitment and motivation will be key factors in the selection process, not necessarily grade-point average and resume. A short essay explaining why the student should be involved is a critical component.
Growing up, Beckler said he didn’t discover his passion until he was already in college doing undergraduate research. He wants to bring that opportunity to younger students, he said.
“We want students who have potential, who may or may not be actually achieving their full potential. That’s kind of how I was, to be honest,” he said.
Seth Carlson, a physics teacher at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School, said he’s excited to apply for the program, and hopes some of his students will do the same. Saint Stephen’s opened a new marine science center building on campus in February and has a close working relationship with Mote, Carlson said.
This type of club provided a new opportunity for students, and for staff members like Carlson.
“It’s an opportunity to some of those ideas for curriculum that we can always bring back to the school,” he said.
Carlson said seeing the marine scientists working on actual projects may also help him realize specific skills he can teach in his classroom to help his students in their futures.
Fall participants will build fully functional temperature sensors and use them along Phillippi Creek in an ongoing Mote study investigating how juvenile common snook — a popular sport fish — use habitats in the creek. Mote’s snook project aims to make tidal creeks more fish-friendly to better support healthy snook populations and preserve the economic and ecological benefits of fisheries in the Sarasota Bay region.
Club members will learn from guest speakers describing other ocean technology projects who are helping with data formatting to support the eventual integration of club-produced data into their system.
Students not selected to participate can still get involved in other educational programs run by Mote throughout the year.