University of Delaware
Art Trembanis holds a shirt bearing the winning design, which included the name of UD's underwater robot, Dora.

A kid's-eye view

Kindergartners get art and science lesson on underwater robot


2:15 p.m., June 21, 2011--The University of Delaware’s underwater robot will embark on the 2011 field season adorned with the work of one very creative artist — a kindergartner from Newark’s Maclary Elementary School. 

“Commissioning” the work was Assistant Professor of Geology Art Trembanis, who spoke to three of the school’s kindergarten classes about ocean exploration and technology earlier this month. He asked each of the students to create a design related to the content of his talk, which included discussions around scuba gear and an underwater robot model that he’d brought along. 

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A week after his initial presentation, Trembanis went back to unveil the design he chose to make into a sticker for the underwater vehicle. The winning student received a custom T-shirt and stickers bearing the image. Second- and third-place winners got bookstore gift certificates.

“They were really excited. They were cheering for the student who won,” said Maclary kindergarten teacher Suzy Seamans. “(Trembanis) also gave them all bookmarks of water creatures. That thrilled them.”

Teacher Kendra DiOrio, who taught Trembanis’ daughter in class this year, added that the students enjoyed decorating what they saw in the presentation.

“A lot of the kids have toys that look like the things he uses,” she said. “It was fascinating for them to see that these are real things in real life; they’re not made up. And it was nice for them to hear about what they’re used for.”

The students weren’t the only ones to benefit from the experience. Trembanis said working with five-year-olds helped put his work into perspective. He uses the robot to study everything from underwater habitats in Delaware Bay to tropical coral reefs. A recent project involved helping NASA prepare to visit an asteroid.

“Kindergartners have a way of filtering things that was refreshing,” he said. “Sometimes we forget that wide-eyed joy about what we do. It’s a good reminder.”

Trembanis said he plans to make this an annual activity, perhaps by expanding participants to include a larger pool of Delaware K-12 students, or by including it as part of UD’s Coast Day event.

Article by Elizabeth Boyle

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