Learning to explore the depths

Boys and Girls Club kids learn about ROVs, Lake Huron

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Savannah Thomson, visitor experience specialist at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and Boys and Girls Club member August Brege work on a poster related to remotely operated vehicles on Thursday at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center.

ALPENA — About eight members of the Boys and Girls Club of Alpena have spent the past four days at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center learning what it’s like to build and operate a remotely operated vehicle.

The weeklong Shipwreck Experience introduced club members to ROVs and the possibilities that exist when they are used in an underwater environment. The week was designed to simulate a ROV competition, according to Kellie Wasikowski, who organized the program as part of her Americorps service project.

Club members had to work in teams not only to operate the ROV, but also to “discover” a shipwreck, learn about the cargo it was carrying, and find that shipwreck’s home port.

“We’ve been learning about ROVs and how they can be used for lots of things,” 10-year-old Austin Brege said, adding that, underwater, they can help discover new species and can find objects and shipwrecks.

Brege said he hadn’t worked with ROVs before, but that he enjoyed the program and would participate in it again.

Vesper Stutzman, 10, said ROVs can also take pictures, video and “do lots of things.” Stutzman said she learned how to built them, wire the electrical, and how to maneuver them. She also learned other things this week.

“I’ve learned things about Lake Huron and Thunder Bay and how research shipwrecks find new shipwrecks and find new species of animals and plants,” Stutzman said, adding that the week has been fun.

Faith Ann Romel, a staff member at the Boys and Girls Club, said the program was made available to any of the club members in the fifth to ninth grade.

“These kids have not had the experience of remotely operated vehicles, which I think they’ve taken something away from that,” she said. “They also learned leadership and partnership skills.”

Wasikowski said ROVs are a big aspect of underwater exploration now and the technology is “changing the game” when it comes to discovering shipwrecks, new biological species, and different geological features. She said it was really fun to work with the kids from the Boys and Girls Club this week.

“I think it’s a really cool activity, ROV is, because there’s so much creativity that goes into it,” she said. “It’s really cool to see how different kids approach different challenges or designs.”

Crystal Nelson can be reached at cnelson@thealpenanews.com or 989-358-5687.