2005 Ocean Odyssey

We began the season in the spring, and researched oceans all summer long.  Our team watched videos like the PBS series Secrets of the Ocean Realm, Nova's Songs of the Whales, National Geographic's Dolphins the Wild Side, and a video about Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute's Alvin.  We read books including Sea Soup.  We toured the New England Aquarium and attended WHOI Lego day and read books from WHOI:

  • Dive to the Deep Ocean: Voyages of Exploration and Discovery
  • Ocean Detectives: Solving the Mysteries of the Sea
  • The Mysterious Ocean Highway: Benjamin Franklin and the Gulf Stream
  • Off to Sea: An Inside Look at a Research Cruise
  • Follow that Fin! Studying Dolphin Behavior
  • Arctic Investigations: Exploring the Frozen Ocean

Then, we were ready to do our own experiments.  We studied dead zones and how water can become depleted of dissoved oxygen.  We studied the impact of depleted dissolved oxygen on aquatic plant life, snails, and microbes.  We made movies of our snails and microbes with the DigitalBlue Computer Microscope.  We have included our experiments and the findings in a downloadable file (see links to the right).  There were several anthropogenic impacts on the ocean we thought robotics systems could significantly contribute to fixing.  These were investigated, and model systems were created.  Our group also creatd outreach material including an original composition about hypoxic water (which we recorded and performed), and flyers.  We presented our findings and models in a skit at the FLL competitions.

We seeks solutions that will prevent the inadvertent and irresponsible selection of types of animals that can live in the oceans that arises when our actions result in:

  • introduction of invasive species
  • changes in environmental conditions
  • destruction of ecosystem
  • destruction or support of predators
  • over-harvesting food sources
  • obstruction of migration patterns
  • destruction of breeding areas

Our Focus Areas
1) Can we find better ways to clean-up oil spills that don't result in long-living toxic chemicals spread over a large ecosystem?
2) Can we prevent whales and dolphins from beaching themselves?
3) Can we prevent dead zones from forming?

Oil Spill Becomes Oil Recovery
Problem: Oil Spills are costly to clean-up but some toxic, long-lived spills involving diesel oil have to be cleaned.
Solution: Our innovative solution to oil spills is a system that dip lifts and filters oil from the surface of the ocean. Oil spill and recovery system minimizes impact on marine life by filtering it out.  The system collects fuel which can be transported away from the contaminated area.  The system does not use additional chemicals.
Additional Benefits: Recovered oil is separated from other things and maybe could be recovered for fuel use.

Robotic Traffic Cops Prevent Whale Injuries
Problem: Whales are beaching themselves and on a collision course with ships in shipping lanes.
Solution: Hydroids, a robotic system that stimulates whales to change their course.
Additional Benefits: Additional information about whale health and activity is gathered for monitoring whale populations.

New Fertilizer Uses Reduce Dead Zones
Problem: Fertilizer Run-off Contributes to Dead Zone Formation
Solution: Package Corn Seeds With Fertilizer Around Them  The images below show the factory equipment for pre-fertilizing the corn seeds.
Additional Benefits: Reduces costs of farming.  Less fuel is used to fertilize since it happens when seeds are planted; less carbon dioxide is released in the atmosphere.

Fast Facts:
Corn Stalk Nitrate Concentrations:
Low: (Less than 250 ppm) Likely that nitrogen was deficient and limited yield
Marginal: (250 - 700 ppm) Possible that nitrogen deficiency limited yield
Optimal: (700 - 2000 ppm) Yield was not limited by nitrogen
Excess: (> 2000 ppm) Nitrogen supply was excessive

All About Dead Zones

What is a dead zone?
A dead zone is a region of hypoxic water.  It is when there is less than 2.2 milligrams of oxygen per liter.

How much oxygen do animals need?
Require 5 mg/L DO  Striped Bass, American Shad, Yellow Perch, Hard Clam
Require 3 mg/L DO  Blue Crab, Bay Anchovy
Require 2 mg/L DO  Spot
Require 1 mg/L DO  Worms

How does oxygen get in the water?
Wind mixes oxygen into the water.
Phytoplankton and submerged aquatic vegetation and underwater grasses produce oxygen.
Water flowing from streams and rivers and the ocean carries oxygen.

Why are dead zones harmful?
The Dead Zone is a prime suspect for:
increasing mortality
acting as a barrier to migration
reducing suitable habitat
increasing predation
altering food resources
disrupting life cycles, particularly spawning and early life stages
Source: http://www.lacoast.gov/watermarks/2004-09/1hypoxia/ 

Do any animals prefer dead zones?
Jellies thrive in hypoxic water because there are fewer predators, their food is sluggish, and the warmer water good for breeding jellies.  The jellies further impact fish because they feed on young fish.

Scorpacuda Successes At Regionals and State Competitions
We designed and developed 3 different robots to run the missions for Ocean Odyssey.  The robots had similar drive and steering systems, but different tires.  At least two solutions and manipulators were made for each mission.  We used a rubric and practice runs to decide which robot to use during the competition. Our team is proud to have won a trophy at regional competition for our research project and another trophy at state competition for robot design.  More importantly, we learned a lot about how much we depend on the ocean.  We all hope to contribute someday to reducing man's impact on the oceans. 


Thank You!

Jay Crystal
ChemServe of Milford
for doing the dissolved oxygen (DO) measurements of sample water from our dead zone experiment

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute FLL At WHOI - you can take a virtual visit and see the powerpoint slides presented to FLL teams in November 2005 by scientists at WHOI.

Thank you FLL and BAE Systems!



Models - Our models of innovative solutions for the Ocean Odyssey challenge.
Experiments - We performed several experiments to better understand the environmental problems man creates in the ocean.
Script - We presented our findings as a short play.  We also made models and answered questions after the play.  We also created a song and flyers.
Short Story - A short story entitled The Scorpacuda of the Dead Zone.
Hypoxic Water Song - Lyrics to our song about dead zones.
Letter - Template of letter sent to supermarkets advocating consumer education to prevent overfishing.
Lecture Notes - Notes taken during the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutute presentations to Lego groups.
Museum Notes - Notes taken during our trip to the New England Aquarium
Tour Notes - Notes taken during tour of Maine Maritime Academy
Websites - List of our favorite websites about oceans
Robot Design - StepByStep Building Instructions (RCX)
Manipulator Design - Manipulators we used at the State Competition
Algorithms - StepByStep Solution (visual pseudocode) State Competition
Software - Robolab files used for this robot.