Titanic finder highlights science and tech fair for high schoolers
In an effort to continue emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math in high school-aged students, Loudoun County Public Schools partnered with George Washington University-Virginia Campus to hold the fifth annual “Science, Technology and Engineering Day” on the Ashburn campus Friday. Approximately 150 students attended seminars, interactive workshops and presentations by college educators on various science and technology topics.
Students participated in interactive presentations covering “The Science of Accident Investigation”; “Tiger Sharks and Roller Coasters in Your Classroom”; “Tracking Hackers and Solving Cyber Crime”; “Greater than the Sum of its Parts: Integrating a Robotic System”; “Pharmacogenomics”; “Technology and the World of Nursing”; and “Car Crashes and Injuries.”
Dr. Pinhas Ben-Tzvi, director of the Robotics and Mechatronics Lab at GW and assistant professor of Mechanial and Aerospace Engineering helped the students build robots and learn robotic systems during his workshop, in which each robot navigated through a maze.
“The purpose of our workshop was to teach the students how to take different components, including different mechanical parts, sensors, activators and an embedded computer and how they can put these parts together to make a robot,” Ben-Tzvi said. “I think the kids were very excited, because you could see them light up when the robots started to navigate through the maze.
“They were amazed to see something come to fruition from so many parts,” Ben-Tzvi said.
As a special treat, the students listened to a presentation from Dr. Robert Ballard, an acclaimed oceanographer and finder of the RMS Titanic following their lunch break.
According to Ballard, his most memorable findings aren’t necessarily what one would think.
“New lifeforms,” Ballard said. “We all knew the Titanic existed, so it wasn’t a discovery, but a lost and found.”
“The Hydrothermal vents, black smokers, the perfectly perserved ancient ships of antiquity and the things I have yet to find,” Ballard said. “My greatest discoveries are the one I am about to make.”
Ballard explained for the students the different lifeforms in the deep ocean and the science behind such an event as the recent earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan. He also described the earths structure and noted some of the many discoveries and expeditions he has been a part of. Additionally, Ballard discussed the JASON project, a 501 (c)3 organization.
The JASON project, a program Ballard started after receiving thousands of letters from students after finding the titanic, focuses on formal classroom education including classroom-based curriculum experiences. Its Immersion Learning program creates academic enrichment activities for after-school, mentoring and summer camps.
“The key for an event like this for me is recruiting. It’s as simple as that,” Ballard said. “The idea of the JASON project is to make science fun, humanize it and bring experts into the presence of kids.
“I am after kids that want to walk the walk and take the course-load necessary to be successful in science and technology.,” Ballard said. “I really think the kids enjoy stuff like this because it opens their minds to broader things, because they need to see the benefits of doing something like this.”
For more information or to get involved with the JASON project, visit jason.org.
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