Joining Hands 2019: An Expedition to American Samoa

Latest update August 19, 2019 Started on August 4, 2019

Join young explorers from rural Michigan as they Join Hands with students and teachers in American Samoa to explore the ocean, share knowledge, culture and a love of the ocean. Expedition dates are August 14-29, 2019.

August 4, 2019
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In The Field

This morning we headed to the Ocean Center to finish preparations for the Joining Hands 2019 Teacher Workshop. We unboxed the rest of the equipment and got the Ocean Center ready for the teachers arrival. After packing up for the day, we headed back to the hotel and hit the water for some kayaking. We paddled along the reefs in Pago Pago Harbor and captured video of the interesting fish and coral, finding several schools, and even spotting a sea turtle that sadly swam away before we could get a picture. We finished the day with shell hunting and dinner, and are excitedly counting down the hours until the workshop tomorrow.

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We first met at the restaurant next to the hotel to discuss our plans for the day. Then, we drove around the island and got lots of picture and video footage of the Island's scenery. We later drove back to the hotel, got ready and hopped in the water for a short snorkel. During our time underwater we saw lots of cool fish surrounding the surface of the coral and we even saw a blue starfish! Now, we are enjoying dinner at the Goat Island Cafe and enjoying our own ocean view. Tomorrow we plan to finish setting up for the workshop that will begin on Monday.


We flew in from Honolulu, Hawaii and arrived in Pago Pago, American Samoa on Thursday evening. After getting checked in at Sadies by the Sea we settled for the night. Our whole team was up and ready at 6:00 this morning for a radio interview at the local radio station where our mentor, Robert Richards and InvenTeam member, Sylvia Whitt talked about the work we will be conducting in the upcoming weeks. After, we went to the Ocean Center to talk about future plans and the expectations we need to meet with the staff of the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. The teacher ROV workshop will start Monday morning, so there was a lot of work to be done. The majority of the day was spent putting together all the supplies that will be needed for each group in the workshop as well as troubleshooting all of the ROV kits that we left for the students during Joining Hands 2018. Later this evening we spent the time exploring the Sadies by the Sea property and scenery.

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I am flattered and beyond excited to be able to go back to American Samoa and be apart of Joining Hands 2019! It is a great oppurtunity to help the teachers in American Samoa to further their knowledge of ROVs and STEM, and I can't wait to check in with the participants of Joining Hands 2018 to see all the progress they've made on their ROVs. Currently we are in Honolulu, Hawaii, and are excited to travel to American Samoa later tonight.

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I had a wonderful first experience in American Samoa during Joining Hands 2018, and I am really excited to go back and continue our outreach goals for Joining Hands 2019! I've stayed in touch with some of the folks from the National Marine Sanctuary and I look forward to seeing them again on Thursday. Relationships like these have really meant a lot to me over the years! Today we are making the final packing preparations to leave for American Samoa. In the morning we will depart to the airport and begin our return to American Samoa to be apart of Joining Hands 2019!

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Expedition Background

Following up on the success of Joining Hands 2018, the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center at Monterey Peninsula College in partnership with MATE Inspiration for Innovation, the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa (NMSAS), American Samoa Department of Education (DOE), American Samoa Community College (ASCC) and Stockbridge High School (SHS) will conduct an educator workshop and planning meeting of American Samoa educators, government agencies and employers to develop ideas to: 1) improve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education; 2) define and improve educational and career pathways into science, technology and engineering; and 3) infuse entrepreneurship into the curriculum.


  1. Run a 5-day PufferFish ROV Workshop for 24 faculty from American Samoa high schools and ASCC.
  2. Visit high schools to understand the level of resources that are available to support robotics activities and the additional resources that may be needed.
  3. Visit America Samoa Community College and meet with faculty and administrators to discuss how a MATE robotics program can lead to pathways into science, technology and engineering.
  4. Host a meeting with American Samoa government agencies and employers and assess the level of interest and support for underwater robotics (marine issues to address, hosting a MATE ROV competition, volunteering to mentor students ROV teams, volunteering at the competition, offering internships)
  5. Assess the potential for collaboration between K-14 intuitions, gov’t and the private sector to support, contribute to, modify, and take ownership of the Draft Vision.

Draft Vision: Create a network of Pacific Island schools that:

  1. Use underwater robotic learning activities to provide pathways to higher education and careers in science, technology, and engineering (address the NGSS; form partnerships & pathways between elementary, secondary, and college; and partnerships with employers)
  2. Participate in the MATE ROV Competition (form “companies”, project management, entrepreneurship, cutting edge technologies and the application of these technologies to solving real-world problems, etc.)
  3. Use underwater robotic vehicles to address problems relevant to American Samoa (science, conservation, tourism, engineering, etc.) Learn to think like entrepreneurs.
  4. Interact and share ideas (experiences, engineering designs, how to’s) with schools on the mainland U.S.

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