Oceanography > Issues > Archive > Volume 25, Issue 2

2012, Oceanography 25(2):219–221, http://dx.doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2012.61

SPOTLIGHT ON EDUCATION | Engineering Literacy for Undergraduates in Marine Science: A Case for Hands On

Authors | Introduction | Full Article | Citation | Reference


Emmanuel Boss | School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA

James Loftin | School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA



Graduates in marine sciences most often lack basic engineering skills such as programming and robotics. Once they graduate, however, many of the available jobs require them to program (e.g., set a conductivity-temperature-depth sensor to sample at a specific time for a specific interval), collect data using sensors, and interface with robots (e.g., remotely operated vehicles, gliders, and floats). In general, whatever jobs they may land, the ability to teach themselves new skills will be required. We were inspired to develop the class described in this article by Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture (http://www.cmu.edu/randyslecture), in which he described the Carnegie Mellon University Master of Science in Entertainment Technology program, where all the classes are project based.

In our University of Maine semester-long class (14 weeks, 3 hours per week), juniors and seniors in marine sciences teach themselves to program, build and calibrate sensors, build robots, and use the robots as platforms to sample within a water column. Outside materials (e.g., papers, book chapters, movies, and TED talks) enrich the class. Students reflect on class activities and the outside material in a mandatory submission to a weekly blog. There are no prerequisites for taking the class. However, students are warned prior to registering that they will be responsible for their own learning.

Frontal "teaching" is limited to the first class meeting where the class philosophy and mechanics are introduced. Future class periods are devoted to working on projects and project presentations. For example, in the programming module, students present their working programs to the class followed by a Q/A session where the students and instructors pose clarifying questions. The instructors act primarily as advisors (through communications in class and via the blog), resource providers, and evaluators; we limit the class to 12 students to ensure sufficient contact. Evaluation is based on a project-specific rubric, which includes specific expectations for each project and the associated grade reduction if details are lacking or if the project is submitted late.


Full Article

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Boss, E., and J. Loftin. 2012. Spotlight on education—Engineering literacy for undergraduates in marine science: A case for hands on. Oceanography 25(2):219–221, http://dx.doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2012.61.



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