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Initiative News


Dollar Bay HS: SOAR Student Organization for Aquatic Robotics wins national Herzog Award

Youth Volunteer Group Award
SOAR = Student Organization for Aquatic Robotics
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Designing and building submersible remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) for combating invasive species at Isle Royale National Park might appear to be an impossible challenge to most high school students. But the Dollar Bay High School's Student Organization of Aquatic Robotics (SOAR) took on this challenge.

In the course of a year and a half, 25 students, in grades 9-12, participated directly in the project. This represents approximately one third of the high school's student body at this rural K-12 school. Marine Robotics is a science elective course led by Dollar Bay High School teacher Matt Zimmer. Students in the course become members of the school's High School Enterprise Team, SOAR. In addition to in-class project work, the students and teacher spent and continue to spend many evenings and weekends working on the Isle Royale project.

The SOAR team was requested to engineer an ROV which could be used to monitor docks and inspect boat hulls for invasive mussels. This entailed engineering a design that:
provided sufficient image quality to discriminate between invasive mussels and other organisms and to assure enough contrast to pick out mussels against the substrate in low light conditions; could record images for future reference and for baseline and mitigation; and was portable, durable, and low maintenance.

The complexity of the project has increased as SOAR team members build their knowledge base and become increasingly more sophisticated in their work.

SOAR team members participated in a phone interview with WTIP youth radio project.

Both sides were impressed with what the other group was doing, best described by WTIP's Mara as "mutual awesomeness"