On Tuesday April 10, the first activity “ExploSub: Science and Technology for Submarine Exploration” took place at the Marine Biology Station of the Department of Oceanography at the University of Concepción. In September 2017, the Millennium Institute of Oceanography (IMO) won competitive funding in the 21st National Contest for Projects for the Appreciation and Dissemination of Science held by the Explora project of the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT), which made it possible to carry out ExploSub, a project aiming at bringing marine sciences closer to the school community.
On this occasion, the project took inspiration from the challenges presented by the past two scientific expeditions in which IMO participated: ATACAMEX and ERC HADES, which probed into the deep sea at large and the Atacama Trench in particular. As has been widely reported both by national and international media, in the first of these expeditions IMO managed to set a lander at a depth of 8,081 meters, establishing a new record for oceanography; while in the second expedition, IMO scientists, along with other experts from Europe, Asia and the United States, took plankton samples at a depth of more than 5,000 meters for the first time in history. Thus, in less than three months, the Millennium Institute of Oceanography set two world records, placing itself at the forefront of global oceanographic exploration.
Considering the above and desiring to take advantage of the renewed impetus added through these achievements, IMO resolved to inspire the school community in the region, so that it would start to show more interest for oceanography and topical scientific issues. With this end in view, the Millennium Institute of Oceanography invited schools located in Coihueco, Penco and San Pedro de la Paz to take part in ExploSub by building a scale model of a submarine, and thereby to contribute to the solution of the problems posed by the study of the deep sea.
Twelve monitors trained by IMO–among them aeronautical engineers, industrial engineers, biotechnological engineers, programmers, computer scientists and marine biologists–will host a series of workshops on different subjects related to their fields, which will be attended by around 160 people, including teachers and students aged 11-16. These events will not only help participants to advance in the construction of the scale model, but also to gain new knowledge about different scientific fields and to acquire new tools that will be useful in their subsequent education.
The first activity carried out in Dichato was one of the few events attended by all the project’s participants and was intended to motivate them, as IMO deputy director of Outreach Bárbara Léniz, who is also taking part in ExploSub, explained: “The idea was to motivate them, to introduce the project to them, so that they could understand the context in which it was conceived and the elements by which it was inspired. We also wanted to make them feel part of the project and identified with the work that they are going to do over the next months.”
For this reason, the two workshops held during the activity–“the Challenges of Exploring the Deep Sea” and “Robotics in Science: an Ocean to Discover”, which was organized and hosted by the group of entrepreneurs Technobotics–aimed at arousing genuine interest for these subjects among students and teachers, most of whom had never dealt wit these complex scientific issues before. Furthermore, ExploSub seeks to bring science close to students with special educational needs, who make up 20% of the total number of participants; this reflects IMO’s genuine willingness to include all the school community, introducing them into the world of oceanography.
Nicole Castillo, one of the monitors participating in the project, evaluated the activity as positive: “Students showed themselves interested in learning and participated a lot in the different workshops. We hope to be able to continue contributing to the project in the future by giving tools to students and motivating them, so that ExploSub can be successful.”
So, by carrying out such outreach activities, IMO, with the cooperation of its Outreach and Development and Technology Transfer teams, seeks to bring the world of oceanography closer to this diverse group of students and to show to them the important work it is currently doing, placing itself at the forefront of the study of the eastern South Pacific, as was made clear in the successful expeditions ATACAMEX and ERC HADES.