University of Delaware
A look at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment's TIDE Camp.


High school students participate in UD's marine science summer camp


1:15 p.m., Aug. 9, 2013--First, the campers were divided into groups of four or five. In front of them laid PVC pipes, wires, propellers, a giant instruction manual, and of course, duct tape. The goal? Create a fully functional underwater robot using these materials to compete in a mock oil spill at the University of Delaware’s indoor pool.

The hands-on project was one of many marine science activities 10-12th grade students experienced at TIDE (Taking Interest in Delaware’s Estuaries) Camp, organized by the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE) with support from Delaware Sea Grant.

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“The program is designed to teach students all aspects of marine science — including marine biology and physical ocean sciences,” said Franklin Newton, CEOE assistant dean and the TIDE program’s director. “It really helps them get their passion for science in a practical application.”

The first week of the camp was dedicated to the physical ocean sciences, with students attending workshops at the Newark campus and spending much of their time fabricating their robots, called remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

The mock oil spill at the end of first week consisted of campers using their equipment to retrieve ping pong balls, representing turtles and oil, from throughout the pool to earn points. The other option — more difficult and point-heavy — was steering their ROV to the bottom of the pool to carefully place a cap onto a small pipe.

“I’m impressed with what they were able to do through teamwork and design,” said Art Trembanis, associate professor of oceanography, who has been in charge of the underwater ROV competition since its inception. “They are getting to learn the joys and frustrations of underwater robotics.”

In addition to using their own handmade ROVs, the campers also enjoyed the experience of controlling a real ROV in another part of the pool. Using a live-camera feed from the ROV, they could watch peers attempt to cap the “oil spill” at the bottom of the pool or even try to cap the spill themselves in between competitors’ turns.

The ROVs that the campers built were remarkably similar to though much less expensive than the underwater ROVs used by UD’s marine science program out in the field. They are equipped with high-tech underwater cameras, claws and sensor equipment, and are used for short-ranged, detailed inspections, such as investigating individual targets along the seabed or taking pictures and videos. 

“I liked building the ROV,” said Tom Ertle, a high school senior from Jackson, N.J., who came for his interest in marine biology and was also a member of the team that scored the most points in the oil spill competition. “It showed me the two sides of marine science. But I can’t wait for the marsh walks and seining next week.”

The second week of TIDE Camp took place at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes and was filled with lectures and field activities to observe marine life up-close with insights from CEOE faculty. Students toured the University's research vessel, the Hugh R. Sharp, kayaked and visited sand dunes in Cape Henlopen State Park.  

The students took breaks from the academic side of camp with trips to a pool, the UDairy Creamery and the National Aquarium in Baltimore — one of the largest collections of fish and sea creatures from around the world.

“I really enjoyed getting up close to marine life,” said Valerie Huertas, a high school senior from Mount Laurel, N.J. “My favorite part was the dolphin show.”

TIDE Camp was taught by professors in several disciplines with help from CEOE staff and students.

“I just wanted to share my great experiences with marine science with the campers,” said Marissa Berlant, an environmental science major at UD who volunteered to be of the three counselors helping with TIDE Camp. “I hope I can make them feel as passionate as I am about it.”

For more information about the TIDE Camp program, visit the website. Program applications are typically due in March.

Article and video by Andrew Cooper

Photos by Ambre Alexander

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