Robotics Inspire the Next Generation of Ocean Explorers

“The joy of discovery is certainly the liveliest that the mind of man can ever feel.”        -Claude Bernard (1813-78) French physiologist

A couple of weeks ago Dr. Sandra Brooke, Marine Conservation Institute’s Director of Coral Conservation, and a team of researchers set out on an expedition tasked with exploring deep canyon ecosystems off the US Atlantic coast. Coincidentally, on August 18th the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium located in San Pedro CA hosted the Robotics by the Sea event. Children had the opportunity to make their own robot sculptures out of items that are normally considered trash.  Yes these beautifully unique creations will likely be tossed into the recycling bin, but the children will remember the experience and put more thought into their consumption habits in the future. The tangible products might be discarded, but the intangible thought processes, inspiration and changes in habits will continue to affect these children long after their artistic creations are being reformed into new plastic products.

The beginnings of a robot sculpture
 courtesy of Save Oceans & Seas.

There were several interactive booths where children were encouraged to control terrestrial and aquatic robots. By the expressions on their faces this experience was rewarding for both the children and the students who created these robots.

 So why are these events so important? Because they may inspire a future Sandra Brooke of course!

Sandra Brooke in a submersible preparing
to survey deep sea coral ecosystems for
damage after Deepwater Horizon oil spill in
the Gulf of Mexico.
Children having hands-on
experiences controlling a
remotely operated vehicle (ROV).
“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”– Chinese Proverb



hese unique experiences allow children to experiment through problem-based learning and most importantly have fun with science. Meanwhile, the student engineers are given the opportunity to share their creations with the public. Right now these students are creating robots that, when controller and robot become one, can pick up a tin can off the sidewalk, or a washer from the bottom of a pool. In less than a decade some of these students and young participants may be valuable members of teams that are envisioning, designing and building robots that will be instrumental in the discovery of yet-to-be explored marine habitats, species, and underwater conditions we can only theorize about now.  It is cliché but true, these children and teenagers are the future of deep sea marine exploration and events like this one foster a healthy sense of creativity and wonder that may eventually inspire children to become ocean advocates.




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