Michigan 4-H partners for impressive STEM results

Michigan 4-H, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Straits STEM Hub partner with impressive results.

Recently, 14 adult and teen leaders from Michigan State University Extension attended a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) workshop. Staff from the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary delivered programming and hosted the workshop using funding provided by grants through the Straits STEM Hub.

After the ROV Workshop, 100 percent of participants indicated that they felt they had increased their science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) knowledge and understanding about entrepreneurship and career opportunities that youth can pursue in robotics and science related fields.''

“The workshop was beneficial as part of my public school’s implementation of STEM. We intend to include underwater ROV’s as part of the curriculum in middle and high school,” said one MSU Extension educator. “This workshop provided valuable training, background, and materials to begin implementation. Meeting area educators who are using [the ROV] kits also provided a future resource for information.”

 “As time changes it is always good to be shown new and improved ways to teach, and also to review what you may have forgotten,” said another MSU Extension educator.  

Since the ROV Teacher’s Workshop, educators have shared what they learned with others in their communities, offered ROV workshops or recruited youth to help them in seeking additional club members and grant funding.

In Alpena, educators Rick Fluharty and Bob Thomson have formed ROV teams. They have been meeting during the summer months exploring the Lake Huron ecosystem and are looking to acquire a SolidWorks CAD program, free to students, to begin using with their ROV designs. In Traverse City educators Ray Moore and Paul Grayson worked with teen mentors to form an afterschool STEM - ROV team.

Mike Berenkowski, an ''Oscoda educator, shared information from the ROV workshop with his colleagues. They plan to offer joint activities in the future. In Alcona County, the ROV that educators built during the workshop served as a model for two summer camp sessions in Onaway and Alcona Counties; this group plans to form a ROV STEM club in the fall. Scott Steensma, an Onaway science teacher, has been recruiting students for a school ROV team, and is also planning lessons for his environmental science classes.

So far this summer, more than 162 adult and teen educators have been involved in furthering STEM – ROV activities in their communities. This number of participants is expected to increase exponentially as teachers follow through on their plans to incorporate ROV engineering and design programming into school and after-school programming. 

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary near Alpena, Mich., is 448 square miles of one of America’s best-preserved and nationally significant collections of shipwrecks. The waters of Thunder Bay and its shores have been used by humans for thousands of years. The shipwrecks, lifesaving stations, lighthouses, historic boats and ships, commercial fishing camps, docks, and working ports represent a microcosm of maritime history, commerce and travel on the Great Lakes.

With their commitment to resource protection and to Great Lakes maritime history and literacy, it makes sense that the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary would support ROV education and awareness. ROVs assist in cleaning up oil spills. They are able to dive deep, stay in the water longer and cost less in liability insurance. As opposed to human divers, ROVs don’t worry about cold, currents, dangerous animals, accessing tight places and aren’t afraid of retrieving torpedoes or mines.

If you are interested in learning more about future 4-H ROV Educator Engineering and Design Workshops, visit the MSU Extension website.

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