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USS Intrepid: Combining science & history for virtual excursions

June 27, 2014

After a fantastic visit to New York Hall of Science my Churchill fellowship continued on toward Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum Complex in Manhattan. Approaching the World War II aircraft carrier from the heart of Hells Kitchen t I couldn’t help but be excited to learn the history of the vessel and see the variety of aircraft on the flight deck. USS Intrepid was launched in 1943 and saw active service in World War II and Vietnam as well used for recovery operations for the NASA Gemini program. During World War II the carrier was survived by 5 kamikaze attacks and 1 torpedo strike as it participated in operations across the Pacific.

USS Intrepid

USS Intrepid

During my visit to USS Intrepid I met up with Kerry McLaughlin, Enrichment Programs Manager. On arrival we headed into the Education Centre to discuss how video conferencing was being used to teach remote students about history, citizenship, geography, flight and space. A variety of workshops are taught using traditional H.323 video conferencing as well as Safari Montage Live & Google Hangouts. A favourite of mine was where students are asked to plot the map of the World War II island hopping campaign whilst learning the geography and culture of the ports visited. This workshop ties extremely well with the another conference whereby students are shown first hand materials such as Captains Log to build a picture of the events of October and November 1944 and discuss the impact of the decisions made at the time . Apart from history lessons the museum presents a variety of STEM video conferences such ‘Take Flight’ focused on the mechanics of flight and ‘Be Healthy in Space’ looking at nutrition requirements on board a space shuttle. Of course there is some difficulty to present from the flight deck due to the possibility of inclement weather . Using WiFi for roaming about the ship is also challenging as the aircraft carrier is predominantly made of plate steel – the signals are interfered with (see Faraday cage!).

On speaking with Kerry I was left to roam the ship. On the flight deck there are variety of aircraft including the A-12 Blackbird, AH-1J Sea Cobra, AV-8C Harrier and F-14 Tomcat as well as a variety of civilian planes to complete the flight pattern. One of the major attractions to the flight deck is the Space Shuttle Enterprise, the prototype shuttle used to test flight dynamics of shuttle orbiters prior to the full production. Now used as a education tool, the shuttle now resides on USS Intrepid  to inspire children to consider a STEM career. On the lower deck there is a moving presentation on the kamikaze attacks as well as exhibits on ship buoyancy, camouflage, submarines and space exploration. There is even a huge replica of USS Intrepid created in Lego! Time was also spent roaming through the tight corridors of the submarine USS Growler and checking out the Concord airliner adjacent to the aircraft carrier.

Space Shuttle Enterprise

Space Shuttle Enterprise

Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum marked the end of my New York leg of my Churchill Fellowship tour. My final stop of this trip will bring me to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the International Society of Technology in Education conference. I’m looking forward to learn about the new developments in technology for education and to meet with many members of the ISTE Video Conferencing Professional Learning Network. Whilst the tour is almost finished there is still much to do!

All the best,

Ben

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