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!
Dr. Annmarie Eldering works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. She recently met with students in the Digital Wave program, to tell them about her job and what inspired her to follow her career path. That career path has been pretty amazing, and students had soooo many questions. Dr. Eldering work involves extracting information about clouds, aerosols, and trace gases in the Earth’s atmosphere with satellites and remote sensing instruments. And she is the Deputy Project Scientist on the soon-to-be-launched Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) satellite, which will map CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, basically “watching the Earth breathe.” And how did this awesome career path begin? It’s simple. An interest in chemistry and math, and wanting to know what stuff is made of.
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!
On Saturday February 4 we kicked off the spring Digital WAVE Saturday Design Studio. This semester, groups will develop 3D virtual world exhibits of south Florida’s waterways, from the Kissimmee River and the Upper Chain of Lakes, through Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, mangrove coasts, and out to sea and the coral reefs. The class will focus on how these systems are connected, and how climate change might impact them in the future. This week, we started off by creating models of aquifers, which are natural underground water reservoirs. We learned that the Biscayne Aquifer in south Florida is an example of an unconfined aquifer – the top portion is the water table and it merges with Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This means that the water supply can be easily contaminated. It also means that the more water we use, and the higher the sea levels rise, the more salt water will intrude into the wells which provide us with fresh water. So who’s on board with us to conserve water?
It’s that time of year, and a new term of Digital WAVE is about to start on February 4th! In late January, Digital WAVE staff held evening orientation events for new students at the North Miami Public Library and at Miami Northwestern Senior High School. We were happy to get the chance to meet students and their families for the first time, and share information about the program. This spring, students can look forward to a Career day event, a field trip to Anne Kolb Nature Center, speaking with NASA scientists, and creating their own 3D virtual exhibits on climate change and south Florida.Special thanks to all those who took time out of their week to attend. See you soon!
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!
This year in Digital WAVE, students are learning all about climate change and how it is related to south Florida environments – specifically mangroves. During class time they are using the same technology and software that scientists, animators, and designers use to model complex systems or create graphics for movies. And students have been using this technology at a state-of-the-art design lab at Miami Dade College-North Campus in order to design their own mangrove trees, which will be part of a 3D virtual exhibit they are creating.
Even though students have the incredible opportunity to create mangroves in a 3D virtual environment, there is also nothing like seeing mangroves in the 3D real environment. So the Digital WAVE students embarked on a trip to Biscayne National Park to go canoeing among the real mangroves. They learned about mangroves’ importance as marine habitats and as a kind of protection for us against the full force of hurricanes. The experience in this fun “outdoor lab” has inspired even more creativity when the students returned to the fun indoor lab. Some students may have temporarily ended up out of the canoe and in the water – but that’s all part of the fun.
Where on Earth could you really prepare for the challenges of space? As it turns out, it’s right in our back yard. NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project) sends NASA employees to live in Aquarius – an underwater laboratory right off the Florida Keys, to prepare for space travel. Aquarius is located 3.5 miles off Key Largo, and 62 feet under the surface of the water, and NEEMO crewmembers live there for up to 3 weeks at a time. NEEMO missions include astronaut training and testing equipment required for exploring asteroids.
Now use your imagination. Think about trying to accomplish a task that would be pretty simple on land. Shoveling sand. Inserting a screw into machinery. Holding still. Picking up a rock. Breathing. Now imagine doing those tasks underwater (or in space). All these things that we take for granted in our every day lives become much more difficult in space, and trying it out underwater is great practice.
On Saturday October 22nd, 85 participants, including Digital WAVE students, attended an event that featured a live webcast with NEEMO crew, in which they learned about NEEMO missions first hand. Other participants included teachers who were attending a professional development training for APEX (After-School Program Exploring Science), and other high school students from the Upward Bound Math & Science program. During the Q&A with NEEMO crew, participants asked about the challenges of asteroid exploration, and how astronauts train for it. During the daylong event, students also participated in activities stationed throughout the Museum related to asteroid composition, gravity and buoyancy, and projectile motion. And of course, what day would be complete without being able to make and analyze your own impact craters?
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 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.
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.
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.