Professor Duffy with students at Nauticus

Professor Duffy with Amanda McCombs, Leo LaForest and Ricky Bass.

Tidewater Community College students taking Professor Debra Duffy’s classes in oceanography are making waves in learning thanks to an innovative partnership with Nauticus.

With only 5 percent of the oceans explored due to extreme cold temperatures, darkness and high pressures, scientists are using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) to complete missions in treacherous underwater settings.

Students in Oceanography I are learning about the technological advances that allow scientist to map the sea floor, and then they are designing, building and testing their own ROVs in the Seabots Design Lab at the Norfolk maritime science center and museum.

The program is led by Duffy, who monitors their progress and encourages them to problem solve the solutions.

“Volunteerism in informal science education allows students to be surrounded by science in their everyday lives,” said Duffy. “By working together, we build stronger communities.”

Da’Jon Clemons with Ava, a museum visitor.

This ROV service learning project launched in 2017. Participating students set up, demonstrate and clean up the activity, and then write reflections on what they learned during the program.

Once they master the challenge, they share what they’ve learned during daily ROV building and testing workshops with Nauticus guests and community members. “They guide guests with the project from start to finish and have a lot of fun doing so,” said Duffy.

Da'Jon Clemons and Lena Grimes

Da’Jon Clemons and Lena Grimes.

Navy veteran Lena Grimes, who is earning an associate degree in social sciences, has enjoyed the class so much, she’s decided she wants to be an earth science teacher. “I love this stuff,” said Grimes, undecided on a career path prior to taking Duffy’s class.

Seabin at Nauticus

The first Seabin on East Coast is at Nauticus.

As for the ROV project, Grimes added, “I really like it. It requires teambuilding to be successful and lots of trial and error.”

TCC’s partnership with Nauticus expanded in 2019 with Oceanography II students working to keep the waterfront clean. They volunteer to monitor the area’s first Seabin, a floating trash can designed to skim trash from the water and Nauticus’ property.

Part of this service learning project includes cleaning the Seabin, categorizing the trash and disposing of it properly. Students share their data in class and write about what they’ve learned.

Duffy said that she enjoys this project because in class students explore environmental problems of the oceans and then they get to directly participate in the solution.