Utah State University Professor Nancy Mesner, Water Quality Extension Specialist in the Department of Watershed Sciences, coordinated the aquatic portion of USU STARS! GEAR UP program by getting high school teachers and students out on the water. The GEAR UP activity was one of a number of different events under a major grant to the College of Education to promote STEM education. Faculty from the Colleges of Engineering and Natural Resources assisted with this weeklong camp. The event was attended by 50 high school juniors and 10 teachers from throughout Utah.
Conditions at the surface of a lake or river are simple and straightforward to measure, but exploring deep within a water body is far more challenging. In July the students attending the GEAR UP Engineering camp learned how to build and use underwater remotely operated vehicles (UROVs) to explore the world under the surface.
The focus was to use technology to explore and answer questions about air and water quality. The UROVs are based on the Seaperch, an underwater robotics program designed specifically for teachers and students. The students built a similar robotic device using readily available and relatively inexpensive components. Several additional devices were attached to the UROVs, including a light and temperature meter, a device to measure water depth, a device to take water samples at depth, and a GoPro to capture video of underwater conditions.
The students used lessons from the Stream Side Science curriculum, developed by USU Water Quality Extension and available at http://streamsidescience.usu.edu. Stream Side Science provides a deeper understanding of the ecological and management implications of many water quality measurements. The objectives of the activities were to work as a team to collect and analyze data from different water depths using the UROVs.
Each student spent half a day at First Dam in Logan with USU Water Quality Extension faculty and student workers. Rotating in small groups, students also took a boat out on Hyrum Reservoir to explore deeper water. Based on these results, students posed questions about conditions in the reservoir and produced research posters describing their questions, their approaches and their results. Among other things, the students took measurements that demonstrated a combination of difficult conditions for cold water fish in the reservoir, which had high temperatures in the upper waters and low oxygen concentrations in the deep water. Environmental Engineers and watershed scientists are trained to find solutions for problems such as these.
Water Quality Extension Specialist
Utah State University
College of Science
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