Student Work

This page showcases work done by students participating in the DigitalWaves program.

Go Green!

There are only so many hours in the day, but still, students in the second session of Digital WAVE this summer managed to build an entire 3D house in a virtual world in just 2 weeks. The goal was to show all the ways that we can use “green energy” in our houses, schools, and communities, with solar panels, wind turbines, energy-saving appliances, and lots more. During the program, they also went on a field trip to Oleta River State Park with the Museum’s Reclamation Project Director Fernando Bretos, put together electrical circuits powered by water, wind, and solar power, built and tested remotely operated vehicles, and even climbed into a real OceanGate submarine in the Museum. They also met with Mark Spalding, CEO of the Ocean Foundation, from within the virtual world. Mark (through his avatar) talked about the importance of blue carbon, which is the atmospheric carbon absorbed by coastal environments like mangroves and seagrass beds.  Students even met with a Museum employee who lives “off-the-grid” without electricity or running water – proving it can still be done! All of these experiences, along with their own research, helped students design our energy efficient virtual house. Enjoy our photo slideshow!


Students built solar-powered circuits and tested them in the sunlight outside the Museum… took measurements of trees at Oleta River State park to determine the carbon they absorb from the atmosphere… built and tested ROVs in a tank at the Museum’s Sea Lab…


…climbed into a real OceanGate submarine at the Museum…  and tons more! All of this resulted in an energy efficient, environmentally friendly virtual house with a green roof, solar panels, CFL light bulbs, energy efficient appliances, just to name a few.



One green energy source was a solar chimney, which provides power by heating air which then rises and powers the turbine. The bathroom has CFL bulbs, a ceiling fan for cooling without AC, and a water efficient toilet. And at the end of the program, students presented their projects, including this bird-friendly wind turbine, to their families and Museum staff. Jobs well done!




The Greenest (Virtual) House in Miami!

The Digital WAVE students have learned a lot this summer – building their own circuits powered by wind, water, and the Sun… following through the Energy Tracker exhibits at the Museum… meeting Martin Keeley, Education Director of the Mangrove Action Project via a virtual world… going on a field trip with Fernando Bretos of the Museum’s Reclamation Project to plant mangrove seedlings… researching energy efficient and environmentally friendly technologies. All of this helped inform student projects, with the big goal to create a 3D virtual exhibit of the “greenest house in Miami.” In the virtual world, students built virtual wind turbines, attenuator buoys to harness wave energy, and solar panels, and they built a virtual house with energy efficient appliances, a green roof, and water recycling abilities. On the last day of the program, students presented their projects to family and friends at the Family Event, held at the Museum. They shared what they had created and what they had learned, and left inspired to suggest or make whatever changes they could in their homes, schools, and lives. Take a tour of our virtual house below!

Digital WAVE house, with green roof

Wind Turbine

Solar panels, compost bins, and recycling containers

CFL light bulbs and ceiling fans

Presenting student projects at the Digital WAVE Family Event

July 3rd, 2012  in Events, Student Work No Comments »

Fly Over a Virtual South Florida

Imagine you are flying above Florida, looking down at the winding (and in some places straight) Kissimmee River, the enormous Lake Okeechobee, the patchwork quilt of farmlands, the watery green Everglades, and the urban sprawl of houses and roads. For those of us who are not superheroes with the ability to fly, the students participating in our Digital WAVE program can give you that opportunity. They have been learning about climate change and the water pathways throughout south Florida, and have created a 3D virtual south Florida to illustrate these crucial environmental issues. Take a photo tour of south Florida with us, and you will be amazed at the progress amd creativity of these young people. (Click on each image to see a larger picture.)

The beginning stages of our virtual Florida

The final product - our virtual Florida!

A close-up of the Everglades

A close-up of urban Miami

June 1st, 2012  in Featured, Student Work No Comments »

Science Fair Winner!

We do our best to keep in touch with all the awesome students who participate in our programs here at the Museum. Some particularly exceptional students, like Barbara Escobar, make that easy for us. Barbara, a student at North Miami Senior High School, previously participated in the Digital WAVE Summer Academy, where she studied the effects of climate change on South Florida’s coral reefs. During the program, Dr. Andrew Baker, Associate Professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Miami, spoke to Digital WAVE participants about his research on corals and the impacts of the terrible Deepwater Horizon oil spill. After that talk, Barbara was inspired to start her own environmental science research. With help from Museum staff, Barbara got in touch with Dr. Baker and worked with graduate student mentors at the Coral Reef Conservation Research Laboratory. She concentrated on studying the use of dispersants, which are used to mitigate the effects of crude oil on corals. This past year, she entered her project in her school’s science fair and won first place. Congratulations Barbara!

March 22nd, 2012  in Featured, Student Work No Comments »

A Virtual South Florida

Do you see south Florida in our Digital Wave island? Students have teamed up in groups to represent different regions of south Florida, which you can see outlined by 5 plots of land. We have: the Kissimmee River and the upper lakes… Lake Okeechobee, Farmlands, and Water Conservation Areas… Coasts and Estuaries… the Everglades… and Urban Areas. Groups will work together to research their region, how water flows through it, and how the region and water sources may be affected by climate change. Another twist? The groups have to work with each other, because water in one region doesn’t stay in that region, it flows from one region to the other. Stay tuned for more progress!


March 2nd, 2012  in Student Work No Comments »

The Last Wave – Family Event!

All good things come to an end, and the Fall 2011 session of Digital WAVE came to a close with a fun and inspirational event for students and their families. Throughout Digital WAVE, students had worked toward designing and building 3D projects in the virtual world of Second Life. These projects highlighted some aspect of climate change and how it affects south Florida environments such as mangroves forests and coastlines. Families were invited to the event, and saw that their sons and daughters had created 3D virtual factories emitting greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, virtual sea levels rising and inundating mangrove coastlines, and lots more. Students received their Digital Wave Certificates, and everyone enjoyed refreshments and photos!

One of the students' 3D climate change exhibit projects

Some of the Digital WAVE students having fun with photos before the Family Event


January 29th, 2012  in Events, Student Work No Comments »

Carbon Dioxide: The Missing Link

When a NASA scientist meets high school students, you may automatically think that it is always the NASA scientist that would be teaching the students. But at the Museum’s Digital WAVE: Warming Winds and Water program, the scientist taught the students, AND the students taught the scientist. At Digital WAVE’s first virtual speaker event of Fall 2011, Dr. Mike Gunson from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California met with Digital WAVE students in Miami to talk about climate change. The event took place in the virtual world of Second Life, and everyone communicated through his or her avatars. Dr. Gunson is an atmospheric scientist and works on the OCO (Orbiting Carbon Observatory) satellite that will map carbon dioxide from space and will “watch the Earth breathe.”

Dr. Gunson speaks to students around the Digital WAVE campfire.

Dr. Gunson talked about how carbon dioxide was “the missing link between soft drinks, forests, ocean acidity, wild fires, cement production, and volcanoes” and how records and observations from ice cores and satellites show how carbon dioxide levels have increased, and how humans have contributed to the problem.

Dr. Gunson explains The Keeling Curve, which shows direct observations of increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1958.

Then… students had the opportunity to show Dr. Gunson what they had been working on in virtual worlds. Their avatars led Dr. Gunson’s avatar to where the students are building 3D objects as part of their projects to create virtual climate change exhibits. Getting feedback from a NASA scientist is pretty special. And getting his attention so much so that he asked for an invitation to come back to see their final projects – that’s saying something.

The beginnings of students' virtual exhibit projects on climate change. See the glaciers?

Virtual Climate Masterpieces

There are times when you’re impressed, and times when you’re really impressed. Seeing the completed student productions at the Digital Wave Family Event was one of those times you had to be really impressed. During the 2-week Digital Wave Summer Academy, high school students learned about climate change while also gaining 3D design skills. Students formed groups, and each group chose a topic – groups chose everything from deforestation and sea level rise to carbon emissions and acid rain. After doing some individual research on their group’s topic, students went to work creating their masterpieces in the virtual world of Second Life. Their challenge was to design and build 3D virtual exhibits and animations, with the goal being to create something that would help others learn about climate change. All the projects turned out to be amazing. Check out just a couple of them that students presented to their families and Museum staff at this event. (Each image has a description of that group’s topic below the image.) And just try not to be impressed by what these students learned and created.

Before (left): A healthy forest with a big glacier nearby, and a house sitting a safe distance from the water’s edge. After (right): After deforestation by humans has destroyed the forest, all the carbon which has been stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere, accelerating the atmosphere’s warming greenhouse effect, which melts ice, raises sea levels, and affects environments and habitats.

Visitors to this theatre may sit and enjoy a short video (also created by this student group) about the effects of climate change on the Earth’s polar regions. They would learn that the Antarctic Peninsula’s temperature has risen 5.4degrees since 1950; and that by the end of the century, sea levels could rise by 3 feet. Visitors could then start a simulation on the exhibit to the right – as the ice sheets melt, the sea level rises.

What’s the connection between human industries, natural environments, and acid rain? This simulation displays a factory, illustrating how industrial activities, and the burning of fossil fuels, increase greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. This can then change the chemistry of the atmosphere, soils, forests, and oceans – acid rain and ocean acidification can in turn affect soils, vegetation, and ocean habitats.

August 23rd, 2011  in Events, Featured, Student Work No Comments »

Student Movie Showcase

Making Movies. Creating and scripting 3-D animations. Navigating in virtual worlds. Customizing your own avatars. Learning about climate change and its effects on South Florida. Designing structures to withstand hurricanes. Combine all of these elements, and you get the Museum’s program entitled Digital WAVE: Warming Winds and Water. Nineteen students participated in a two-week summer program in which they were able to do all these things. Students learned about climate change and its effects on South Florida, including how hurricane intensity and frequency may be related, and designed and built their own virtual 3-D structures with the help of an experienced technology teacher and mentor. Then they watched what happened as their virtual hurricanes roared past their structures.

At the end of the two weeks, the Museum held a Family Day Finale Event and Student Showcase for Digital WAVE. Each student created a short movie which showed their structures either withstanding or being destroyed by their virtual hurricanes, and also featured some photos and other work the students had completed. Parents and other family members were invited to see the Student Showcase and hear about students’ work and experiences. After passing out certificates for completing the program, and eating some cake, the big question from the students came, as they started to leave: “When is the next program I can sign up for?”

July 14th, 2011  in Events, Student Work No Comments »

How to Create a Virtual Skateboard

March 5, 2011

Student Submission

Today we all came in as usual, waiting to see what was in store for us. At first, most of us thought that it was just going to be another day on Second Life (not that that’s a bad thing or anything, but isn’t it nice when something you don’t expect to happen, well, happens?)

Imagine our collective surprise when our professor, who teaches computer animation and is a character designer, showed us many of his creative character designs. He then proceeded to teach us how to build characters in a professional, character-building animation program called Maya. Maya is software used by the likes of huge names such as Walt Disney Animation and Dreamworks, and is hugely popular in the filmmaking industry.

The program, our professor described, is like a ball of clay – one starts from scratch, and molds the clay into a figure. Maya works the same way – a basic shape is chosen, and then molded into something familiar. Today, we were to mold our “clay” into a character.

Many of us caught on to the program fast, while some of us needed a bit of help along the way. But at the end, our professor admitted that most (if not all) of us were already really good at making our characters come to life, despite being beginners at the program.

After breaking for lunch, we moved on to working in Second Life. Today most of us were to begin building for the first time. One of our classmates, who is already really awesome at building things in Second Life, stood at the front of the class and began to lecture us on how build.

After some fooling around and getting used to the controls, the instructor gave us a new assignment: build an object that resembles a form of transport, in 45 minutes.

Again, many of us had trouble getting started, but with help from the instructor and advice from our neighbors, all of us were able to create something in the given amount of time. Boats, spaceships, rockets, cars, trucks and all sorts of other things were made, but definitely the best and most creative creation was a gigantic, colorful skateboard using only basic shapes and a couple of editing tricks.

So, yeah today was a pretty great day in Digital WAVE! We learned a lot, both in Maya and Second Life!

April 5th, 2011  in Featured, Student Work No Comments »