In addition to research, I have dedicated myself to improving STEM education for communities in Hawai’i and promoting ocean literacy and stewardship through a variety of outreach events/programs.
During research cruises, we collect specimens that we can later show to our community to explain what we learn about the places we study and why the research we are conducting is important. For example, the School of Earth and Ocean Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa hosts an Open House every 2 years to provide the community a unique opportunity to view exhibits by researchers and participate in hands-on science activities. This event draws approximately 5000 members of the community over 2 days. For this event, my research group showed ROV footage we collected of deep-sea animals as well as brought out real (preserved) deep-sea animals for visitors to handle. We aimed to have visitors learn a select few facts about different deep sea habitats/animals and inspire youngsters to be curious about the ocean. Colleagues at the University of Hawai’i and I also designed a craft lesson that teaches about mesopelagic fish adaptations. Students are able to build their own fish but only have enough energy (in this case pennies) to “buy” fish parts like large fangs and bioluminescent lures. Participants also named their fish using latin names that described characteristics of the fish teaching about how scientists describe and formally name new species. At all of our events, we showcased additional platforms such as televised ROV dives by Okeanos Explorer and E/V Nautilus as well as lessons developed by NOAA that visitors could use to continue their science inquiry well after our event.
Other events included numerous laboratory tours, visits to local schools, public events at the Waikiki Aquarium, the RobotX STEM Expo and ROV competition, and STEM workshops for young girls. In 2018, myself and two other graduate students applied to receive a Trident ROV from OpenROV’s Science Education Exploration Initiative in partnership with National Geographic Explorers. We were able to obtain a Trident ROV and develop lesson plans to teach about technology used in deep-sea biology research and encourage ocean engineering from a young age. As part of this project, myself and another student traveled to the neighboring island of Kaua’i and visited 3 high schools of over 300 students bringing ROV footage and a real ocean glider. We had a great time answering questions from students and showing them what it is like to study physics and biology in the deep sea. I continue to develop ocean-based hands-on activities and curricula for students and members of the community and hope to incorporate aspects of my future research.
Video from RobotX STEM Expo:
Media coverage of Kaua’i outreach: