RenaissanceRe Announced as Lead Sponsor of BIOS’s Mid-Atlantic Robotics IN Education (MARINE) Program

Kaitlin Noyes

The 2020 Mid-Atlantic Robotics IN Education (MARINE) program kicked off this month with a “Tools of Ocean Exploration” Workshop, supported by lead donor RenaissanceRe. The event gave participants an overview of the 2020 MARINE ROV Challenge, as well as the opportunity to participate in a variety of hands-on activities designed to highlight the tools and technologies that scientists use to explore the ocean. For students competing in the ROV Challenge, the “Soldering 101” module, led by BIOS educator Kaitlin Noyes (standing), helped them practice skills required to wire the control boxes used to navigate their underwater robots.

Since 2015, the Mid-Atlantic Robotics IN Education (MARINE) program has been a core component of BIOS’s Ocean Academy, which offers a suite of hands-on education and research opportunities for students and teachers in Bermuda. BIOS is pleased to announce that MARINE has a new lead sponsor in RenaissanceRe, which has generously funded the program for the next two years, supporting the program’s goals of engaging participants in scientific concepts and enhancing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in the classroom.

The MARINE program consists of three main components: the annual remotely operated vehicle (underwater robots, also known as ROVs) design and piloting challenge; workshops for students and teachers participating in the MARINE ROV challenge; and teacher toolkits that include educational materials and curriculum ideas.

80 teachers and students

The full-day workshop, which was attended by 80 teachers and students from around the island, included collaborations with not-for-profit organizations that are using marine technologies in novel ways to help students explore and understand the ocean. CONNECTECH led participants in an introduction to coding and game development; Oceanography for Everyone demonstrated a variety of open-source oceanography tools; and the Overview Collective engaged students in an environmental virtual reality challenge.

“In addition to STEM-based training, MARINE provides experiences that encourage the development of skills such as project management, critical thinking, teamwork, and communication,” said Kaitlin Noyes, director of Ocean Academy. “We’re grateful for the support of lead donor RenaissanceRe, as well as our other donors, including the BAC Group of Companies, that allows us to continue making a positive impact on the island’s students and teachers.”

Jeff Manson, Senior Vice President at RenaissanceRe, spoke at the event. “The RenaissanceRe team is excited to sponsor the MARINE program at BIOS, which builds valuable STEM skills and an awareness and passion for ocean studies,” he said. “As a Bermuda-headquartered reinsurance company, RenaissanceRe is deeply interested in both the health of our marine environment and weather risk science.  We are looking forward to the great ideas from Bermuda’s bright young people and hope their involvement in MARINE will inspire a life-long appreciation and interest in advancing global ocean studies and protection.”

Diallo Robain and students

Also in attendance was Bermuda’s Minister of Education, the Hon. Diallo Robain, JP, MP, seen here in the grey suit lowering a marine sensor off the BIOS dock with local students and Andrew Thayler (right), a deep-sea ecologist and conservation technologist. The Minister spoke of the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in schools and praised BIOS’s commitment to providing environmental education opportunities to Bermudian students. Photo by Jei Swan.

Also speaking at the event was Minister of Education The Hon. Diallo Rabain, JP, MP. “We can proudly state that BIOS is Bermuda’s source for environmental education,” he said. “BIOS offers students from across Bermuda and the world the chance to gain practical scientific experience and the government fully supports the success and sustainability of STEM education in schools. I wish to extend the Ministry of Education’s thanks to RenaissanceRe for its generous support of educational programs such as MARINE. Your commitment to serve as the lead sponsor for the next two years of BIOS’s youth program is yet another example of RenaissanceRe’s consistent support to provide educational opportunities for Bermudian students.”

The 2020 MARINE program officially launched on Thursday, January 16 with a “Tools of Ocean Exploration” workshop at BIOS. Over the course of five hours, participants learned about the tools and technologies that scientists around the world are using to discover more about the ocean. The interactive workshop included five stations that students and teachers rotated among throughout the day: an overview of the ROV Challenge and props for the 2020 event; an introduction to coding and game development led by CONNECTECH; a demonstration of open-source oceanography tools led by Oceanography for Everyone; a virtual reality challenge and an overview of “green” marine jobs from the Overview Collective; and a “Soldering 101” course led by Noyes.

The Overview Collective

The Overview Collective, a non-profit organization whose mission involves using multimedia technologies to introduce people to the green economy and sustainability, was on hand to give students examples of ocean conservation efforts. Using virtual reality headsets, students learned about the “Billion Oyster Project” in New York, which restores oyster reefs in New York Harbor through public education initiatives.

During the event, participants were also introduced to the theme of this year’s ROV Challenge – “Excite, Educate, Empower: Students Engineering Solutions to Global Problems”. The Challenge, to be held May 9, 2020 at the National Sports Center, is held in partnership with the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center and is designed to allow students the opportunity to apply the physics, math, electronics, and engineering skills they learn in the classroom to solve real world problems.

This year’s theme presents participants with the task of building ROVs to address issues of plastics in the ocean, climate change’s impact on coral reefs, and the consequences of poor environmental practices in our inland waterways. The Challenge, which is free and open to the public, allows teams to compete in beginner, scout (intermediate), or navigator (advanced) levels. Registration priority is given to middle school students in Bermuda, however senior schools and primary 5 and 6 classes are also encouraged to apply.