Florida Tech is taking its lagoon science bus on the road – virtually.
The refurbished recreational vehicle filled with microscopes, seine nets, water quality instrumentation and other equipment, usually travels to schools and area events to provide hands-on educational experiences and demonstrations related to the Indian River Lagoon.
The coronavirus pandemic has altered that approach, just as it has required students to “attend” school from their homes.
So Florida Tech’s Indian River Lagoon Outreach team, led by oceanography assistant professor Kelli Hunsucker with assistance from ocean engineering assistant professor Robert Weaver and oceanography graduate student Morgan Gilligan, is creating modules featuring information related to marine science and ocean engineering.
These lessons are now available on the Facebook and Instagram accounts for the science bus, with additional modules to be posted in the coming weeks.
In addition to Hunsucker, Weaver and Gilligan, other graduate and undergraduate students on the outreach team are creating components that contain either a graphic or a link which corresponds to the topic, so readers can dig deeper. The modules are also applicable for different age ranges, from elementary school to high school.
Some of the lessons the team has planned focus on benthic organisms and water filtration, marine pollution, ocean renewables, recycling, understanding mean water level, and Living Docks, a project that engages communities to modify existing dock structure with the goal of increasing recruitment of filter-feeding organisms such as oysters, mussels and sponges to help clean the lagoon.
“I am happy that we have this online platform to share our love of science and engineering with students now learning from home,” Hunsucker said. “Our goal is to produce educational posts which we hope stimulate interest in STEM, just as we were able to do with our real science bus before the pandemic.”
The virtual bus is an opportunity for team members to showcase their expertise in various fields, as they each create modules based on their own interests and fields of study. Hunsucker has also solicited some outside colleagues to help write up some pieces.