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Viking Explorers (North Shore Schools)

October 23 2014

Our mission is aimed at connecting students to Long Island's rich history, its extremely diverse marine and fresh water sources and human's impact on its ecosystems. We will foster a greater appreciation of our habitat, create stewards of conservation, and promote ownership, awareness, pride, and responsibility for our little island we call home. We have now completed an OpenROV 2.6, 2.7, and a 2.8. All student built! This page is completely run by 8th grade students in the Viking Explorers elective.

October 23 2014


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Mission Underway

As the school year comes to an end, the viking explorers are ready to share their adventures! First, we had set sail to Eisenhower aquatic center, testing out our robots that we built from scratch. With PVC pipes, motors, and wires, we forged our own robots. Our tests went well, we drove our robots around, and even tried out some obstacle courses. The viking explorers had a fun time testing our robots for the first time.

On March 21st, the Viking Explorers went to the Fire Island Lighthouse. At the lighthouse, we explored the Lighthouse Museum and saw how the original lens of the original Fire Island Lighthouse, built in 1826. The lens is a design called a Fresnnel lens, afterthe famous scientist Augustin-Jean Fresnel. His design used cuts of shapes in glass a certain way which would magnify light so people could see a kerosene lamp from miles away. This allowed sailors to be guided to Fire Island during storms or fog. We also had the opportunity to climb into the new Fire Island Lighthouse, built in 1858. There we looked over the edge with our 360 video cameras and saw the light within the lighthouse, at the very top. After that, we brought our ROVs to the Great South Bay, where we found beautiful green sea lettuce at the bottom of the bay. The video link has been attached to this post.

On March 1st, the Viking Explorers took a trip to the Riverhead Aquarium. We watched a sea lion show, saw sharks in the shark tank, and experienced butterflies like never before at their butterfly exhibit. We visited a bird aviary, where exotic birds like parakeets became our companions, even landing on our heads! We also were able to put our ROVs in a fish habitat called The Lagoon. The ROVs captured many interesting videos of fish including the sea robin, which has limbs attached to its body that "walk" on the bottom of the habitat. We used GoPros to capture the footage in The Lagoon. Some students went on a behind the scenes tour of the aquarium and saw how the aquarium was ran. Overall the explorers had a great time and had an amazing experience at the Riverhead Aquarium.

This looks like such a great trip! I'm particularly curious about the "walking" fish at 1:03!

@margaretsinsky The "walking fish" at 1:03 is a species of fish called the sea robin, or Prionotus Carolinus. These fish mainly are found on the East Coast from Cape Cod down to South Carolina. They live on the bottom of the ocean, where they use their limbs to "walk" across the ocean floor searching for food, mainly small crabs. Their "limbs" are actually part of the fin. They use them as their main mode of transportation through the ocean. The NOAA Okeanos Explorer also caught footage of a sea robin on their most recent dive. The link is here:

Very cool! Thanks so much for the wonderful explanation (and link to the Okeanos clip). What a fascinating species this is!

This year, we have begun building personal watercraft out of 55 gallon drums and PVC pipes. We are preparing for our expedition to the Riverhead Aquarium in February. We have also completed our PVC ROVs and have gone on many expeditions with them. We have been to Tappen Beach in September, Port Washington Yacht Club in October, and finally to Morgan Park in late December. We have continued to pursue creating environmentally friendly soap to be sold on Mother's Day. We will be using essential oils like lavender, citrus, and peppermint. We are hoping to have a great turnout like we did last year. We are also constructing an additional OpenROV 2.8 for use on expeditions. We hope to get that ROV finished soon and operational on the upcoming trips for the rest of the year and use it for upcoming years.

Sounds cool! Do you have pictures of the watercraft?

Thank you for your compliment! We do, in fact have pictures of the watercraft. We are currently in production and are hoping to finish in the next couple of weeks.

As mentioned in the previous post, the Viking Explorers have recently been busy making, packaging, and marketing environmentally friendly soap! The project was inspired by the Watershed/Eutrophication Unit earlier in the course, which was centered around eutrophication and other environmental concerns in local water bodies. Motivated by the issues that they learned about, the Viking Explorers began brainstorming possible solutions. The students decided to look further into creating environmentally sound soap, a solution that would help the environment through both the soap itself being natural and the proceeds made from selling it. The students partnered with a local soap-making professional to actually make the soap, learning about the process of soap-making and the science behind it. Four scents were chosen: Cedar Wood, Lemongrass, Peppermint, and Lavender. The soaps were prepared and then put aside for four weeks to saponify.

Although the soaps were put aside during that time, the students did not pause the process. Students designed the labels and packaging, researched possible places to the sell the soap, and began looking into a charity to donate the profits to. A burlap sleeve fastened with a label and short blurb was chosen as the packaging design. The Viking Explorers were able to obtain a spot to sell the soap in the School Store, and hopefully will be able to get the soap into some of the other possible selling locations, including a local general store and street fair in Sea Cliff. The students considered a variety of charities to receive the soap proceeds, but the local organization CRESLI was chosen in the end. CRESLI is a Long Island charity dedicated to marine mammal conservation and environmental education, and its mission fits very nicely with the Viking Explorers mission. Overall, the soap unit has been a very educational and satisfying experience.


This photo is of a vibrant fish tank in the aquarium!


Enjoy some photos from our most recent expedition! This one portrays some students controlling the Open ROV!


An Update

The Viking Explorers visited the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, New York, on February 26th. The field trip allowed the students to combine all they had learned about local waterways (from the recent Watershed/Eutrophication Unit) and the new ROV 2.8 that has been constructed. The aquarium allowed the students to maneuver their ROVs in a tank that replicates the Long Island Sound, so the students were looking forward to the opportunity.

Before arriving at the aquarium, the students were split into groups, so as to give everyone the chance to visit all of the aquarium attractions. One of the groups headed first to the Long Island Sound replica tank to dive with the ROV and a few SeaPerch robots that were brought along. The ROV collected some incredible footage of the species in the tank, including footage of several clearnose skates and a sand shark. The ROV performed well in the tank, and it was a relief to know that is was finally working.

While some students maneuvered their underwater robots, other students explored the aquarium’s many exhibits, both individually and with a tour guide. There were some very interesting tanks to be seen. Students experienced the “Lost City of Atlantis Shark Exhibit”, “Best Buddies - Clownfish and Anemones Tank”, and the “Discus Fish Tank”, to name a few. Students also had the opportunity to witness a penguin feeding and go on a Behind The Scenes tour of the tanks. The tour of the tanks was educational, especially for some students that intend to construct a Long Island Sound tank in the Viking Explorers classroom.

All in all, Expedition 5 to the Long Island Aquarium was a great experience for the Viking Explorers. Students learned a multitude of interesting information all while having fun in the well-designed aquarium.

Since the last Open Explorers post, the Viking Explorers have been very busy. At the end of 2015, the students continued diving with the SeaPerch robots that they constructed. They explored Roslyn Pond through the GoPros attached to the SeaPerches, as well as Fire Island waters. The December expedition to Fire Island was especially intriguing, as students had the opportunity to climb the Fire Island lighthouse and learn about Fire Island’s rich history.

After the new year, the students focused their attentions away from underwater robotics for a few weeks to explore issues related to the Long Island Sound. Students learned about watersheds and the problems that can arise from them, like hypoxia and eutrophication. After the unit, the students created their own Public Service Announcements to inform people about the issues local waterways are facing and inspire them to be part of the solution.

Recently, the students have begun their own engineering projects, centered around the ROVs and other aspects of the course. Some students are designing ROV attachments to allow the ROVs to collect other types of data during expeditions, while others are designing a fish tank to allow students to study species of the Long Island Sound. The students have learned important engineering skills, starting with listing the purposes of the invention/project and addressing some problems related to the design, to creating initial orthographic drawings, to beginning the building stages.

We began our most recent unit, the soap unit, with the goal of solving some of the issues the students explored in the watershed unit. The class combined with a local soap-making professional to make all-natural soap that we want to sell with the intentions of donating the profits to environmental organizations.

In summary, the Viking Explorers have been very busy researching, designing, creating, and solving!

Wow - looks like a great experience!

It was time for students to put their newly constructed Sea Perch ROVs to the test on October 15th. The students and their robots made it to Port Washington Yacht Club in the morning, and from there began to ballast the robots. Students added and removed weights and pool noodles to make their robots neutrally buoyant. After ballasting, students took their ROVs for a test run to get a feel for their maneuverability. During this time, certain ROVs outfitted with GoPro cameras videoed the other robots as they maneuvered around the pool. Before long, it was time for the competition. The obstacles were lowered into the water. The teams lined up, each member with a different role (circuit board controller, tether management, and navigator). In the end, Mr. Lang's and Mr. Slack's team won, with the team Lola and The Three Stooges in a close second. The second expedition went significantly better than the first expedition.

Through the majority of October, students constructed Sea Perch ROVs to familiarize themselves with the process of constructing robots and the technology involved in utilizing them. First, students researched ROV designs and determined whether they wanted to alter the kit design. Then, the construction process began. Students cut and drilled PVC to build the frame, connected the tether cable wires to the motors, waterproofed the motors, mounted the propellers, and assembled the entire control box and circuit board. After construction, students designed a pool competition for the Sea Perch ROVs.


The first expedition was a great learning experience. Late in September, students traveled to Tappen Beach in Sea Cliff for the first Viking Explorers expedition. The intentions of the field trip were to ballast and test the OpenROV, collect species in the Long Island Sound and then research them through Dorothy Sterling's book "The Outer Lands", and video the entire process.

Upon arrival at Tappen Beach, students ran into some problems. The OpenROV was not working like it was supposed to. Although the OpenROV was not functioning, students still had a great experience. All day, the students took turns troubleshooting the OpenROV. Several species were collected and identified, such as Green Crabs, Atlantic Horseshoe Crabs, and Striped Killifish. Photographs and videos were taken of all of the species, and students drew and labeled them. All in all, it was a valuable first expedition.


Within one month we will begin our journey with our new students and our new class!! The students will begin by constructing PVC robots to learn the basic concepts of underwater robotics, and our expeditions of Long Island's waterways will come shortly after that. We will come back with data as soon as possible. Can't wait to share!!

Preparation Stage

Our journey officially began!

During our build season we will be working with students to assemble and then test our OpenROV before we make our first dive off the coast of Seacliff, NY in early 2015. If this dive is a success we will then head to the Great South Bay and do some very exciting wreck dives!

As the great Dr. Emmett Brown once said, If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

Follow us on Instagram @Viking_Explorers to see more build pictures, featuring both our successes and failures.


Excellent! I like the montage photo! Excited to follow along.

Exciting! Your ROV looks like it's making good progress!

Expedition Background

Exploration 2.0 is a new state of the art curriculum that is going into full effect next year. We are currently building and testing the robot with a pilot group of students.

Our first dive is planned for early 2015 off the coast of Sea Cliff, New York. The goal is to simply test the "waters" of our program.

Our main focus at this point is to scout for potential dive locations for students to utilize during the 2015-16 school year.

Our goals are to explore the Long Island Sound and the Great South Bay for shipwrecks, marine life, and man made treasure. We also hope to travel to coral reefs on long field trips with our students.


This sounds very cool! Excited to follow along!

Excellent! Can you share a link about this new curriculum? This is exciting!

I'm excited to see your shoreline! I have many curriculum materials developed which I've used during many ROV building workshops I'm happy to share! erika at openrov dot com

The curriculum is currently being written so we do not have a link as of yet. We finally have acquired all materials and have just begun assembling the ROV. Thank you Erika for offering your curriculum materials I would love to check them out.