Students dive into Coast Guard's domain

By SARAH ZOELLICK | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: September 22, 2012

HONOLULU — The Coast Guard wants students to know it does more than pluck stranded mariners from the sea.

It uses infrared technology. It directs underwater robots. It cleans up oil spills. It uses advanced computer software and electronics. It hammers and welds.

But most important — according to organizers of the 14th Coast Guard District's fourth annual education expo — it incorporates science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) into its daily operations.

D'Asia McCleary, a Mililani High School student who attended the expo Friday with her fellow Junior ROTC cadets, said she most enjoyed learning how to control the Coast Guard's small underwater submarine that's used to inspect piers and the bottom of ships for objects that aren't supposed to be there.

"We got to learn about how they use it and what they use it for," McCleary, 16, said. "This is actually very educational because I did not know a lot of the stuff about the Coast Guard. I just knew that the Coast Guard did stuff with the sea … but I learned a lot more."

The Coast Guard began hosting the expo three years ago after being encouraged to do so by then-Gov. Linda Lingle, a STEM education advocate, event coordinator Cmdr. Maria Galman said.

Some 140 students from Mililani, Leilehua, Kapolei, Farrington and Kaiser high schools attended this year's event at the Coast Guard's Sand Island station.

Students broke up into groups and spent 15 minutes each at nine stations. The expo culminated in a large search-and-rescue demonstration in waters offshore from the Coast Guard base.

"What this allows them to do is say, ‘OK, take this really hard math stuff that I have to take, and how does that convert to what people are doing for a job?'" Rear Adm. Charlie Ray said. "We're interested in getting some of these bright young kids in the Coast Guard … and we're interested in just kind of helping them, you know, because the nation needs this — kids that are interested in this."

Norma-Jean Driscoll, a 17-year-old Kapolei High student, said she most enjoyed getting to sit inside a rescue helicopter.

"I didn't realize how simple it was to fly a helicopter," she said. "They showed us all the little controls, and it seems it's like a video game — like a real live video game."

Driscoll said she attended the expo with her STEM class.

"The heat sensor thing, that was pretty interesting. And the computer program they have — the mapping — that was really cool," she said. "I want to be a marine biologist, so all the science-y things I'm interested in, all the hands-on stuff."

McCleary said she also enjoyed the infrared station.

"That was pretty cool because he shined it on our glasses, and you couldn't even see our eyes," the Mililani student said.

Gabriel Alvarez, Mililani's JROTC company commander, said his favorite part of the day was the electrical station, and that he was looking forward to hopping inside the helicopter in a later rotation.

"The coolest thing was learning about the lights, like how much money it takes to make one single light and how long it lasts," said Alvarez, 14. "I'm more of like a technology computer kind of dude, like for aircraft and stuff. Probably in the future I'll be a pilot for the Air Force, like the F-22s that were flying around here earlier."

Kevin Cartier, a retired chief aviation electronics technician and member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, said he volunteered to help with the event for a third time because he thinks it's a great way to prepare kids for science, technology, engineering and math careers and to teach them about the Coast Guard.

"They kind of look up to us, and when they see when we actually do, it's a great boost for them," he said.


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