NOAA 2002-106
Contact: Jeanne Kouhestani
NOAA News Releases 2002
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Four high school students who had outstanding science entries in the NAACP’s 25th Annual Academic, Cultural, Technological, Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) competition in July have been awarded a science cruise aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research ship Ronald H. Brown. NOAA judges selected the students based on the quality of their projects and presentations and relevance to NOAA science. NOAA is an agency of the Commerce Department.

The students are Ashley Heilprin of Mukilteo, Wash.; Leigh Hernandez of Albuquerque, N.M.; Aaron Brown of Detroit, Mich.; and Yolanda Brooks of Saginaw, Mich. They are being accompanied by NAACP chaperone Cherese Williams of Baltimore, Md.

They will spend six days aboard Ronald H. Brown off the coast of Florida helping scientists from NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory study the bottom topography and its other phenomena that affect plumes of human-caused waste products in coastal waters there. The research will help determine its effect on fragile nearby coral reefs.

“Here in south Florida, studying an environmental impact on your own ‘oceanic back yard’ relates to studying the effect of coastal growth and population increase on a global scale,” said Chief Scientist Jules Craynock, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami. “Finding balance between the mechanisms of nature and the needs of our population is the present and future challenge.”

The students, who will embark at the Port of Miami today and return on Aug. 24, will also have an opportunity to learn about the different jobs of mariners, and experience what it is like to work and live aboard a research vessel while at sea.

“For years NOAA has given teachers the opportunity to get this type of first-hand experience through the Teacher at Sea program, so we’re happy to be able to do it for students who have demonstrated a strong interest in science,” said Capt. Don Dreves, who commands Ronald H. Brown.

Dreves is an officer of the NOAA Corps, one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. NOAA Corps officers, all with degrees in science, engineering or mathematics, operate the ships and aircraft of the NOAA research fleet.

“We’re looking forward to working with these young people, in hopes of encouraging and stimulating their interest in math and the sciences, with the added potential benefit of finding a future NOAA Corps officer,” Dreves added.

The award of a cruise aboard Brown is the result of a year-long ACT-SO enrichment program designed to prepare, recognize and reward African-American high school students who exemplify scholastic and artistic excellence. A number of NOAA employees have acted as mentors for the students and have served as judges for years. NOAA’s Office of Civil Rights is funding the students’ transportation to and from the ship.

The Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) in Miami, specializes in basic and applied research in oceanography, tropical meteorology, atmospheric and oceanic chemistry, and acoustics. The principal focus of these investigations is to provide knowledge that may ultimately lead to improved prediction and forecasting of severe storms, better use and management of marine resources, better understanding of the factors affecting both climate and environmental quality, and improved ocean and weather services for the nation.

As part of the NOAA fleet of research ships and aircraft, Ronald H. Brown is operated and managed by the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, composed of civilians and commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps. Ronald H. Brown, home ported in Charleston, S.C., was commissioned in 1997. It is among the most technologically advanced seagoing research platforms in the world, and has meteorological and ocean data-collecting capabilities that are unique in the U.S. civilian fleet. For more on the Brown, visit

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. To learn more about NOAA, please visit