Thursday, November 21, 2013

Students at Rickards High School in Tallahassee have accepted the challenge!

Eight student teams at Rickards High School's IB Program have decided to jump into the SCOPE (Surfzone Coastal Oil Pathways Experiment) Drifter Project by designing and building their own drifters.  Scope is part of the CARTHE Consortium, an initiative charged with predicting the fate of oil released into the environment to help inform and guide response teams. CARTHE, along with the Deep-C Consortium, are challenging students to create new and improved drifters that can help scientists learn more about currents and waves in the Gulf of Mexico.

Two designs presented this Saturday will be selected, fitted with GPS units, and deployed into the Gulf of Mexico during a coastal experiment being conducted by scientists seeking to understand how currents and waves affect the movement of oil and other toxins onto shore.  The experiment will be based at John Beasley Park, Okaloosa Island, FL. Most of the drifters will be deployed from the beach.  (For details, read the 2013 Ocean Drifter Project Fact Sheet).

Testing of the Rickards drifter designs will take place this Saturday, November 23.  Eight student groups will test their drifters -- each branded with a moniker as unique as their individual designs:
  • The Current'anator
  • Duck Dodger
  • Hannibal
  • The Jellyfish
  • The Aggressor
  • Water boy
  • Whatever floats your boat
  • Zakoosa

Take a look at the drifter designs the student teams will be presenting and testing this Saturday:


Rickards High School Science Teacher Ms. Dana Fields
with Dr. Nico Wienders, a physical oceanographer at
Florida State University and member of the Deep-C Consortium. 
Judges, including teacher Dana Fields and Deep-C scientist Nico Wienders, will be asking each testing group to explain the design of their drifters and defend why they believe it is the most sea worthy and best for the SCOPE mission.  The drifters will also be put to a test on-site to ensure they meet the criteria necessary for them to fulfill a scientific mission in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The Challenge! 
Students were asked to create drifters that can move with the surface currents near the coast/beach/surf zone. In developing their designs, participants considered materials that might be best for future scientific research (biodegradable vs plastic, colors, weight, ability to float, etc). They also considered wind, currents, storms, boats, etc. because unless a drifter is correctly designed, it may be blown by the wind rather than transported by the current. Worse yet, it may not be able to withstand the constant pounding of powerful ocean waves. 

Important Criteria for Surf Zone/Coastal Drifters 
  • First... must be able to float! 
  • Next, it needs to include a GPS unit via straps, Velcro, zip ties, or something that will attach the unit to the drifter; 
  • It must be durable and sturdy... able to take a withstand rain, wind and constant movement in the waves; 
  • It must be small and light enough to be carried on a jet ski (less than 10 kilos, but 3-5 kilos is better); 
  • It should be easy to hold on to (some have handles or something that can be easily grasped during deployment); 
  • And, it cannot be deeper than 50 cm.

Posted by:

Tracy Ippolito
Deep-C Coordinator

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