Jessica Noe, University of Washington

Innovation in Undergraduate Ocean Technology Education

Over the past 3 years the University of Washington’s School of Oceanography has implemented a new technology curriculum to integrate advances in cabled underwater observatories and sensor design.  The addition of a new Ocean Technology Center facility helps undergraduate students learn hands-on technical skills necessary for careers in marine industry and introduces students to the professional marine technology community through applied coursework, workshops, and conference hosting.

The experiential learning curriculum in the Ocean Technology program is designed as a 9-credit multi-year sequence of elective courses that allow students to add desirable job-related skills progressively and apply their growing technical skills to independent scientific research motivated by their academic program.  The cohesive element of the curriculum sequence is student engagement in the design, build, operation and maintenance of the ERIS (Exploration and Remote Instrumentation by Students) cabled underwater observatory sensor network at the UW Oceanography Dock.  Beginning with the creation of their own sensors, the learning sequence progresses to more ambitious collaborative projects and culminates in project management, science mission leadership, and mentorship of incoming students.

The results of the first three years of student centered design and build education illustrate both student achievement in job readiness skills and initial data contributions to real-time marine science data streams.  The next step in program development will be contributing to open-source marine technology by making sensor instruction sets available to the growing network of schools and citizen scientists interested in both marine data collection and engaging students of all ages in active learning experiences.