URI explorer Ballard uses thrill of live scientific expeditions to hook kids on ‘green’ careers

Posted on
Immersion Presents explores Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

via telepresence March 2-7

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — February 28, 2008 – How do you get kids to say “I want to be a scientist when I grow up?” University of Rhode Island oceanographer Robert Ballard may have the answer. The renowned marine explorer’s latest quest is not to discover underwater secrets, but to inspire the next generation of ocean explorers by introducing kids to the thrill of discovery and encouraging them to pursue the science and environmental careers so critical for the health of the planet.

From March 2–7, 2008, Immersion Presents Monterey Bay, a cutting-edge, interactive educational program led by Ballard and a team of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other institutions, will use telepresence technology – a combination of satellite and Internet connections – to transport young people live to a scientific expedition in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Students will explore in real-time one of the planet’s most spectacular and most important biodiversity hotspots where they will experience majestic 100-foot-tall kelp forests, take a day trip out to the deep sea in NOAA’s research vessel R/V Fulmar, and study endangered marine mammals like the grey or blue whale and the threatened California sea otter.

“When kids see scientists in action, whether diving a kelp forest, exploring with an ROV, or getting up close to a whale, they immediately discover that being a scientist means much more than wearing a white coat in a lab,” said Ballard, founder of Immersion Presents. “With everyone talking about ‘going green,’ now more than ever we need kids to get excited about the environmentally focused careers that will help protect the planet. Immersion expeditions show kids that science is not only far from boring or nerdy, it is absolutely essential to preserve one of our most threatened resources, the oceans.”

“Many of our kids only know what a jellyfish is from watching Sponge Bob on television,” said Hector Perez, club director of the Chicago’s Union League Boys & Girls Club, which participates in the program. “It’s hard for kids to imagine being part of something that they’ve never seen before. Immersion Presents’ virtual science expeditions open their minds, transporting them to a whole new world of ocean discoveries, new technology, and exciting career opportunities.”

“Encouraging kids to pursue careers in science is just as important as researching unique underwater ecosystems like the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary program welcomes the opportunity to work with partners like Immersion Presents to introduce marine sanctuaries to the American public, especially young people,” said Daniel J. Basta, Director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “The marine environment here is unique, drawing people for its rich bounty, economic opportunity, recreation and inspiration. Protection of these special places preserves them for use and enjoyment for generations to come.”

Live Broadcasts

Immersion Presents broadcasts will allow students, educators and researchers to participate in the ocean expedition live. Ballard will lead the mission from the Inner Space Center at URI. Using special camera systems that were developed and installed in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary by the Institute for Exploration, the Inner Space Center will receive the live video from the expedition site via Internet2. Immersion Presents will retransmit those images to a network of partner Immersion Sites – including the URI Bay Campus — and Boys & Girls Clubs across the nation via satellite, the Internet2 high-speed network, and the Internet. The daily live broadcasts, which are part of a larger interdisciplinary science curriculum designed for upper elementary and middle school students, will air from March 2–7, at 11 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, 2 pm, and 3 pm EST.

They can also be viewed at www.immersionpresents.org and www.oceanslive.org.

Notes to media:

Broadcast quality b-roll is available at http://immersionpresents.org/video/upload/

High-resolution still photos (like the sea otter shown above) are available at http://www.immersionpresents.org/photos/index.php?cat=9