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UGA Skidaway Institute creating educational program using underwater robots

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Researchers and educators  from the University of Georgia's SkidawayInstitute of Oceanography and  Marine Extensionare creating an education program focused on autonomous underwater vehicles,also known as underwater robots.

The program, called Choose Your Own Adventure, will useSkidaway Institute's expertise with AUV's and MAREX's extensive history ormarine education.

UGA faculty member Catherine Edwards and MAREX facultymembers Mary Sweeney-Reeves and Mare Timmons will direct the one-year project.

The AUVs are cutting-edge technology in marine research,wich can be equipped with sensors and recorders to collect observations underall conditions.

AUVs can remain on missions for weeks at a time because theyare highly energy efficient, and they report their data by coming to thesurface and transmitting their data by satellite phone. "Gliders areeducation-friendly, but the existing outreach activities are stale," saidEdwards, in a statement. "Our program will develop the next generation of AUVoutreach programs by combining cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research witheducational activities and strong STEM components."

The proposed work of the program will highlight the problemsof working with strong tides, a characteristic of the Georgia coast.

"Although the AUVs have Global Positioning Systems and canbe programmed to travel a set course, tidal and Gulf Stream currents can exceedthe glider's forward speed, which can take the instrument off course and keepus from collecting data where we need it," Edwards said in a statement.

This, however, works on the educational side because thepredictability of the tides makes the program intuitive and education-friendly.

 "Students who grow upand live on the water already have an intuitive sense of tidal currents,"said Timmons, in a statement. "Students understand why currents changeduring certain phases of the moon. This coastal intuition will provide afoundation for us to start an innovative, hands-on approach to STEM activities."

Activities will be dependant on grade level, so middleschool students will have different objectives from high school students, butall activities will address direction and speed of the AUV and where theytravel.

The activities will develop students' analytical skills andthey will participate in a program that will be compliant with Next GenerationScience Standards for the 21st Century in the common core state curriculum.

 "We hope thisone-year program will serve as a springboard for future funding and continuedjoint outreach by Skidaway Institute and Marine Extension," said Edwards, in astatement. "We'd love to develop computer games and apps for tablets and mobilephones that let students fly gliders through even more realistic scenariosbased on the measurements we collect in real time."

The program is being funded through a joint grant fromSkidaway Institute, UGA Public Service and Outreach, and the UGA President'sVenture Fund.

The UGA President's Venture Fund is intended to assist withsignificant funding challenges or opportunities. The fund also supports smallprograms and projects in amounts typically ranging from $500 to $5,000.

For additional information, contact Catherine Edwards at912.598.2471 or catherine.edwards@skio.uga.edu;Mary Sweeney-Reeves at 912.598.2350 or msweeney@uga.edu;or Maryellen Timmons at 912.598.2353 or mare@uga.edu.

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