NOAA 2000-R325
Contact: Pat Viets


Eighteen sixth-grade students from Accomack County on the Delmarva Peninsula recently participated in an Internet at Sea event, thanks to a program sponsored by NOAA and its partners.

The students watched and listened to a live, Internet-based audio/video presentation from the NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown, docked at its home port in Charleston, S.C. Bill Herrmann of NOAA's Office of Marine and Aircraft Operations, who helped develop Internet at Sea, was onsite at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore to coordinate activities. Herrmann and UMES WebMaster Jamie Webster set up the interview with Capt. Roger Parsons, commanding officer of the ship, and Ensign Catherine Martin, both with the NOAA Commissioned Corps.

The students asked many questions about the ship and its operations, including: "How many people does the ship carry?; When the ship travels in international waters, does it have protection from terrorists?; Does the ship have weapons?; How does it float?; How does the crew know where they are?; How is the food on the ship?; What are the scientists doing on the ship?; and What are the salaries of the crew?" The students were shown the NOAA home page and shown how to access further information about the ship.

Herrmann and Webster were asked to describe how they reached their current positions in NOAA and UMES, respectively. In their responses they emphasized the value of science, math and computer backgrounds. They also said that these careers can be extremely interesting and a lot of fun.

Dr. Gurbax Singh, professor of physics, director of the UMES-NOAA program and acting chair of the Department of Engineering and Aviation Sciences, did a live demonstration of static electricity with magnets and explained positive and negative forces.

The students were accompanied by Accomack County Schools 4-7 Coordinator Mamie Kinsey, teachers Linda Wright and Debra Merrill, and NOAA Federal Program Officer for the project Eveline Cropper.

Internet at Sea is a program that allows NOAA ships at sea to connect to the Internet and to transmit and receive products and services valuable to the scientific community and the public. The high-speed communications links provided by this project are being used to support the research and information needs of the ships and the scientific projects that they perform.

The 274-ft. Ronald H. Brown is one of the most technologically advanced floating laboratories in the world, and has sailed across the globe to conduct research on global climate change, the El Niño/La Niña phenomena, hydrothermal vents, atmospheric aerosols and other environmental conditions critical to NOAA's mission. Brown is operated and maintained by the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, composed of civilians and officers of the NOAA Commissioned Corps, the nation's seventh uniformed service.

Cropper, who works at NOAA's Command and Data Acquisition Station at Wallops, Va., has provided the leadership and momentum for an ongoing program with the students. She coordinates a group of volunteers who assist students with their homework and provide tutoring in various subjects. The project, known as HELP, the Horntown Educational Learning Project, is a co-sponsor of educational projects for the students who participated in a summer camp this year.

After the Internet at Sea activities, the students returned to school. The day was a huge success, said officials from NOAA, Accomack County, HELP and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Cropper's vision is to continue the program year after year, and to follow the progress of the students. HELP and the Accomack school system are providing math, science and computer enrichment activities for the students throughout the school year.

"We are delighted to participate in this vital program, which is so important to the students, the schools and the community," Cropper said. "We all benefit when our students pursue careers in math, science, engineering and technology."

Cropper said the students are looking forward to the second follow-up activity in early spring with the possibility of touring a NOAA ship. The goal of the program she coordinates, the Student Opportunity for Learning - A Collaborative Outreach Opportunity, is to introduce and spark an interest in math, science, engineering and technology (MSET). The vision for the project is to have 60 students (20 students for years 2000, 2001 and 2002) followed throughout their high school years and encourage them to attend college and major in MSET careers, perhaps ending up with a career at NOAA.