Kids to Learn Robotics, Scuba, Marine Science at New College

June 11, 2014

More than two dozen middle school and high school students from Sarasota and Manatee counties are learning science skills, from building and programming submersible robots to collecting and examining marine life and even learning scuba diving, from June 9 to June 21 at New College of Florida.

The students are attending PUSH/SUCCESS, marking its 11th year as a summer program at New College. Students will work in the “wet lab” of the College’s Pritzker Marine Biology Research Center, learning valuable lab skills and developing an understanding of how their health is affected by the health of the coastal environment.

For example, students will collect and examine sea urchins to examine the effect of oils and toxins on their development. They will collect and test water samples, participate in beach cleanups and observe oyster habitats.

This year, students will work on two robotics projects. They will perform buoyancy testing and then drive a remote-controlled robotic vehicle in the New College pools. They also will build and program an autonomous underwater vehicle, and then test it in the pool.

Another highlight will be a talk from Madison Jackson, of Youth Diving With a Purpose, and SCUBA training in the New College pool.

Along the way, program director Dr. Sandra Gilchrist, professor of biology, and assistants will teach students about the scientific method, basic computer coding, graphing and writing lab reports. Students also will participate in programs on leadership and conflict resolution.

The program concludes with students’ presentation of projects and a graduation ceremony June 21.

PUSH (Preparing Unique Students for Healthcare careers) is for students in grades 9 through 11. SUCCESS (Students United to Create Culturally and Educationally Successful Situations) is for students in grades 6 through 8. Both programs focus on typical, not gifted, students, and on students from demographics under-represented in science. Most students receive free or reduced-price lunch at their schools and likely would not be able to afford some other summer enrichment programs.

Gilchrist notes that several of the students participating in this year’s program are younger siblings of students from past years, and one alumnus recently completed medical school – a testament to the quality and popularity of PUSH/SUCCESS.

“We want to see students develop the confidence to go on to higher education,” Gilchrist said. “We’re just happy to see them succeed and to know we’ve had a small part in helping them get there.”

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New College of Florida is a national leader in the arts and sciences and is the State of Florida’s designated honors college for the liberal arts. Consistently ranked among the top public liberal arts colleges in America by U.S. News & World ReportForbes and The Princeton Review, New College attracts highly motivated, academically talented students from 38 states and 20 foreign countries. A higher proportion of New College students receive Fulbright awards than graduates from virtually all other colleges and universities.

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