HAMMOND | The seventh-graders had their eyes focused on the computer screen, paying close attention to their mission. Some wore 3-D glasses, making their environment in the simulated submarine control room as real as possible.
Alex Avalos, 13, said he had never worked on a project such as this. He said it gave him an opportunity to "work and communicate together with a group of students for the success of the mission."
Avalos is one of nearly 1,100 Hammond middle school seventh-graders who will complete their final mission in the Exploration Earth: Mission Ocean curriculum at the Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation at Purdue University Calumet during the next several weeks. Student involvement in the curriculum was sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and Fifth/Third Bank of Northwest Indiana.
In this final mission, the existing Web interface was networked to simulate the 3-D working environment of a research submarine. Students were divided into teams to record and interpret data from sulfur dioxide and temperature probes aboard the submarine to chart and locate an actively erupting volcano. In the simulated environment, students also were able to determine whether the volcanic outflow would affect a wildlife sanctuary on a nearby island.
The students have been involved in this yearlong project designed to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematical concepts in a project-based, real-world environment learning process, said Robert Rivers, Purdue Calumet dean of education.
"Students learned to understand concepts like longitude and latitude," he said. "They learn problem-solving skills and they learn to work together as a team, something they will have to know when they get in the work force."
Hammond Gavit seventh-grade science teacher Nancy Szymkowski said the students are trained in every area as they work in the simulated submarine control room. She said they have a deeper understanding of concepts such as density and buoyancy, and many students have expressed interest in taking 3-D graphics next school year.
While Anna Buenrostro, 13, said science isn't her favorite subject, she enjoyed working on the mission and particularly liked "marine propulsion and navigation."