20,000 Leagues Under the Stars
Author: Chris Bresky (Former Teen Programs Manager)
A year ago, an incredibly common thing happened. A large meteor entered our atmosphere over the Midwest, exploded, and rained down hundreds of meteorites into Lake Michigan. Thousands of meteorites fall to Earth every year; this on paper isn’t all that astounding. What’s even more common is that it landed in water. About 71 percent of Earth is covered in water, so it makes sense a large majority of these meteorite falls would land there. However, this seemingly ordinary event has fueled something truly extraordinary. For the first time ever, teens from the Adler Planetarium, The Field Museum, and Shedd Aquarium are working together to embark on a student-centered, systematic, underwater meteorite hunt dubbed The Aquarius Project. These Chicago teens, and the scientists from each institution, are all working together to detect and recover these submerged space rocks.
You want to inspire a teen? Ask them to lead the charge on an unprecedented, underwater cosmic treasure hunt. At our project kickoff in November, a student asked NASA scientist Marc Fries, “Well, what have you all done before when this happens?” His only answer was, “We haven’t done this before.” When a teen hears a scientist admit to not knowing something, that teen realizes his or her own power to discover something new about the Universe.
The Aquarius Project’s teen-authored, sled design challenge has been shared with more than 450 students from across Chicago at community maker fairs and after school hack events, internationally at the 2017 Mozilla Festival in London, and across the internet through the online design education website of The Chicago Architecture Foundation Discover Design.
Nearly 50 teens from these institutions are currently collaborating digitally to improve on the initial retrieval designs. They are engineering environmental sensors, a magnetic bilge pump retrieval sled mount, and an outfitted meteorite retrieval underwater ROV (an underwater robot!).
This summer, The Aquarius Project will put their ideas to the test.