New STEM-based Opportunities

New STEM-based Opportunities for Minority Students in the Field of Ocean Science and Technology


In April 2012, eleven undergraduate and two graduate students spent two days immersed in ocean science and technology at UConn’s Avery Point campus and Project Oceanology. The students were part of UConn’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program that seeks to provide unique STEM learning opportunities for underrepresented groups. The goals of COSEE-TEK’s Ocean Science and Technology Institute (OSTI) were to provide minority students an orientation to ocean science and technology, expose them to careers in the field, provide them the opportunity to work as a team to build ocean technology and use the devices they constructed to conduct oceanographic sampling aboard Project Oceanology’s EnviroLab2 vessel.

The first day of the OSTI offered an overview of ocean technologies by COSEE-TEK staff, a panel discussion on careers in ocean science and technology with researchers from University of Connecticut and Mystic Aquarium, and tours of laboratories throughout the Marine Science Building. The focus of the institute, however, was on the construction of low-cost hydrophones in the laboratory and testing of these DIY devices in the laboratory using a variety of sounds, including marine mammal recordings, anthropogenic noises, and even music from the King of Pop. A busy day concluded with a tour of UConn’s Northeast Underwater Research, Technology and Education Center’s (NURTEC) Underwater Vehicles Laboratory and took turns piloting a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) through an obstacle course set up in the test tank. The students then watched a presentation of underwater videos taken around the world by NURTEC scientists, providing the opportunity to see ROVs in action.

The second day of the OSTI was devoted to an on-water experience on Project Oceanology’s EnviroLab2 vessel. The undergraduates worked as a team to conduct hands-on sampling using plankton nets and retrieve a trawl net by hand, followed by a discussion of the biology and ecological role of the various organisms caught in the trawl. They also had a chance to deploy their hydrophones and test them in a real-world environment to record the ambient noise of Long Island Sound. This was considered by many to be the highlight of the institute and the first phase of the COSEE-TEK – LSAMP collaboration was a big success. A wonderful group of young scholars at the University of Connecticut learned a great deal about ocean technology, specifically the application of hydrophones to study acoustics in the marine environment.

In April 2013, the center is planning to grow the program, introduce new technology, and broaden participation with other LSAMP programs in the New England region. The primary goals of next year’s collaboration are threefold; 1) Expose LSAMP scholars to a variety of STEM-related career paths in ocean science and technology 2) provide a foray into select ocean science and technologies to develop 21st Century skills and 3) Recruit LSAMP scholars into educational and career paths in ocean science and technology. To target these objectives, COSEE-TEK is proposing an Ocean Science and Technology Challenge (OSTC) to design, develop, test and apply an ocean sampling technology to contribute to the ecosystem assessment. The framework for the OSTC will be collaboration amongst piers and institutions.

Click here to learn more about COSEE-TEK’s 2012 Ocean Science & Technology Institute.