Students at Palm Bay Magnet High School are benefiting from a statewide investment by AT&T this year, one that seeks to engage students who may have fallen behind during the pandemic as well as those in underserved communities, families needing support with distance learning and high school students seeking to jump start their STEM careers through industry certifications.

For the 12th consecutive year, AT&T is working with the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations (Consortium) to support hands-on learning opportunities. 19 separate projects organized and funded through Consortium member local education foundations will re-engage students who have gotten behind in academics and/or are in underserved communities through hands-on STEAM enrichment activities, student-led digital divide support or increasing CTE certification completion.

Students are investigating the Indian River Lagoon using SeaPerch and SeaGlider remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to collect data to monitor the health of the Lagoon. Over 120 students taking Marine Science classes at Palm Bay Magnet High School are participating in the project. The plan expands prior projects that built a small number of SeaPerch ROVs for the Brevard Public Schools Innovation Games in 2021 but never used in the field due to COVID.

“Marine Science classes provide a perfect opportunity for STEAM exposure because they encompass many different sciences including biology, chemistry, geology, and oceanography allowing students to explore different interests. Marine Science may be one of the most relevant sciences today as marine ecosystems are currently impacted by overharvesting of resources, ocean acidification, global warming, pollution, and other large-scale issues,” said Mickey Ratliff, Science Teacher at Palm Bay Magnet HS.

A field trip, planned for Sebastian Inlet in South Brevard, will allow students to implement their project design. Students will launch their ROVs and gather the data needed for their project. Data may include salinity of the water, pH of the water, qualitative data about the water, underwater video, etc. Students will analyze their data, as well as data supplied by Lagoon Watch to look for trends and patterns, to support their evidence-based conclusions. Students will present their findings to the class, can submit a video to the Youth Making Ripples contest, and share their data to Lagoon Watch.

“We’re eager to re-engage students who may have fallen behind over the past year by providing opportunities for them to experience the relevance of STEM curriculum in the world of work, through hands-on learning and career certification programs,” said Joe York, President, AT&T Florida. “We’ve all learned how important it is to make sure families in underserved communities have support for digital learning at home, so their children have the opportunity to accelerate their education, and we’re interested in supporting local efforts in that area as well.”

This year’s statewide grant brings the total investment by AT&T over eleven years to more than $1 million. More than 79,000 students have been directly impacted through 469 projects involving 954 local workplace partners throughout Florida.

Joan Perry