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Teens explore ship design at SUNY Maritime academy

Aug 4, 2016 10:27 AM

STEM helps students get a better understanding of buoyancy and density

Courtesy SUNY Maritime

The following is the text of news release from the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College:

(THROGGS NECK, N.Y.) — Four half-inch boats descended into aquarium tanks. One immediately flipped over and sank, two others sank slowly and the last floated as a teenager pulled it around on a string.

The boats — though not entirely successful — were the culmination of a week’s worth of work by high-school students from maritime-themed schools at SUNY Maritime College’s summer STEM Academy. The program helps students explore science, technology, engineering and math fields in the maritime world.

“This camp really opened our eyes to how delicate a vessel might be in an entirely new way,” said Seth Rivera, a junior at the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School. “Our boat wasn’t as perfect as we wanted it to be but we did get a better understanding of buoyancy and density and the basics of ship design using it.”

The program is funded through a grant from the TK Foundation. The North American Marine Environment Protection Association and SUNY Maritime alumnus Art Sulzer ’74 provided additional funding.

During their week on campus, about 15 students learned about buoyancy and density through chemistry and physics classes, built apps in computer programming class where they built apps and designed boats in a course combining engineering and naval architecture. They spent a night and took turns standing watch on the Lettie G. Howard, an 1890s-era schooner, tried to connect a tugboat to a barge in the campus’ Bouchard Transportation Inc. Tug and Barge Simulation Center. Combining all they learned over the five days, they built and raced cardboard boats at the college waterfront on the East River.

“In this program, you just think you’re taking classes at a college just to do it but in all reality, at the end of cardboard boat day — it really paid off to pay attention in these classes,” said Brianna Rodriguez, a junior at the Harbor School. “It’s cool because it’s a completely new experience.”

Students from maritime high schools are selected by their teachers to attend the academy, which has been at SUNY Maritime for five years. This year, participants came from the New York Harbor School, the Western New York Maritime Charter School in Buffalo and Philadelphia’s Maritime Academy Charter School. Fifteen students participated and lived on campus for the week.

The academy’s goal, in addition to teaching STEM in a more hands-on way than is possible in most high schools, is to encourage students to continue their studies.

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