MAY 30, 2017 7:58 AM PDT

This augmented reality submarine will help children learn about oceans

In order to better expose and inspire students to take an interest in STEM subjects, one man has built a portable above-ground submarine on a trailer. Flanagan is the founder of the project called OLLIE - Ocean Learning Lab and Immersive Experiences, which partners with Ocean Alliance, a non-profit based in Gloucester, MA. The trailer simulates a 360 degree view of the ocean, using video data from NOAA and footage the OLLIE crew gathers themselves, and aims to give people the chance to examine environmental data and solve real-world hands-on problems through science.

Below you can see footage of sperm whales from the Ocean Alliance.

Patrick Flanagan drew inspiration, he says, when "I started to realize that a lot of people don’t have any access to the ocean.” With OLLIE, he wants to bring that access to young people in particular, allowing them to virtually explore life under the sea.

"We could go to Mexico, Antarctica, or even our local Cashes Ledge, and while we’re there, we'll use a lot of the modern tools that we use in oceanography to tell a story about the environment, how it’s changing, how it affects human lives, and how human lives affect it," said Flanagan.

The team hopes to be able to bring the trailer to schools come the start of the academic year of 2018. The set-up is narrow enough to maneuver through town streets and can also expand to accommodate up to 30 people. They also aspire to introduce entire communities to the idea; Flanagan said the lab could be set up during community events to bring people on virtual missions.

A diagram of the simulated submarine ocean views. Photo: Marblehead Patch

Inquiry-based learning is an important aspect of OLLIE. The team wants to bring people the tools to ask questions and go about setting hypotheses. Some of the activities that you could participate in aboard the OLLIE include:

  • Explore digital globes full of real data to understand how global patterns affect ocean ecosystems
  • Learn how to track ocean life beneath the waves and use that information to explore relationships in marine ecology
  • Create models of land and water interacting, and figure out how sea level rise will affect coastal communities

"That experience of being in a real place, in what feels like a submarine, and guided by an oceanographer, creates a really transformative and exciting learning experience," Flanagan said. "One of the founding principles of this project is really about collaboration and bringing people together. If people are interested in what we’re doing and our mission, they should definitely head to our website and check it out.”

Sources: Marblehead Patch, Ocean Lab

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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