Justin Garritt: Precision in Science is Key. Calibrating Day and Ship Tour, September 5, 2018


NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Garritt
NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
September 5, 2018

Topic Today: Calibrating the Equipment and ship tour

Geographical area of cruise: Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon

Today’s Location and Weather: Beautiful sunny skies calibrating in Elliot Bay, Seattle, Washington

Date: September 5, 2018

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Today’s blog will focus on calibration and a tour of the beautiful ship.

Calibration is the act of evaluating and adjusting the precision and accuracy of measurement equipment. It is intended to eliminate or reduce bias in an instrument’s readings. It compares the standard measurement with the measurement being made by the equipment. The accuracy of all measurements degrade over time by normal wear and tear. The purpose of calibration is to check the accuracy of the instrument and with this information, adjustments can be made if it is out of calibration. The bottom line is that calibration improves the accuracy of the measurement device which improves quality.

We calibrate many things in life. For an example, many teachers at my school have smart boimagesards or promethean boards. These boards are interactive white boards that allow teachers to teach using more interactive tools. As a math teacher, I have had a promethean board in my classroom which acts like a large touch screen computer that I take notes on, teach lectures on, give student feedback on, and play math games on.

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A teacher calibrating their smart board in a classroom

They have improved the learning experience for students in my class and across the globe. In order for the screen to work most accurately, we must perform routine calibrations on the board. If we don’t, there is often errors and where we touch the screen is not what actually shows up on the board. When these errors begin to occur, we must calibrate the board or else we won’t be as accurate when writing on the board.

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Police officers and military personnel must also use calibration in their work. Officers must routinely calibrate their weapons for accuracy. When at a safe and secure range, officers will “site-in” their weapons to determine if their scope is accurate. They will then make modifications to their weapons based on the calibration tests. This is another form of calibrating that improves the quality and accuracy of the equipment.

On board the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada, calibration typically happens at the start and end of most legs. Sometimes the Chief Scientist will also make the decision to calibrate mid-leg. For the past two days we have been spending 12 to 15 hours per day calibrating the equipment to ensure the most accurate research can be completed and we can meet the goals of the leg.

Calibrating the equipment is an interesting process that involves the teamwork of all the scientists on board. The process begins with three scientists setting up down riggers on the outside of the boat. Two are set up on starboard side (right side of the ship) and one is set up on port side (left side of the ship). This creates a triangle which will allow the calibration sphere or what I like to call,  “the magic sphere”  to move in whatever direction needed. This same triangle shaped design is used to move cameras that fly above players in the Superbowl.

 

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The picture above shows how three lines suspended from down riggers that are attached to the sphere.

The pictures (with captions) show the process step by step.

We calibrated for two full days. It was surprising how long the process took. After  explanations from the many scientists on board I learned that the process is so long because we are assessing numerous acoustic transducers under the ship.  Then, for each transducer, we are calibrating the old acoustic system and the new acoustic system.

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All smiles at the end of calibration as we head out to continue our mission at sea:-)  In this photo: NOAA TAS Justin Garritt, Scientist Volunteer Heather Rippman, and Future Scientist Charlie Donahue (and roommate)

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A Tour of the ship

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NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada is an incredible vessel that sails for months at a time. It has a crew of over 40 people (who I will be discussing in future blogs). The ship is a science lab with most state of the art equipment and also home for the crew on board that make the boat run 24 hours a day for 365 days a year. Here is a quick behind the scenes look at this remarkable vessel.

The Deck: When you embark the ship, the first thing you see is a huge deck with massive pieces of equipment. Each item has a different purpose based on what scientific study is taking place throughout the leg of the journey.

The Bridge: This is where the captain and his crew spend most of their day. The bridge has all of the most up-to-date technology to ensure we are all safe while on board. Operations occur 24 hours a day, so the ship never sleeps. Officers on the bridge must know what is happening on the ship, what the weather and traffic is like around the ship. The bridge has highly advanced radar to spot obstacles and other vessels. It also is the center of communication for all units on board the ship.

The Galley and Mess Hall: I expected to come on board and lose weight. Then I met Arnold. He is our incredible galley master who makes some of the best meals I have had on a ship. Yes, this better than food on a buffet line on a cruise. Arnold works his magic in a small kitchen and has to plan, order, and organize food two weeks out. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served at the same time everyday. The food is prepared and everyone eats in the mess hall. Beverages, cereal, salad, and most importantly, ice cream are available 24 hours a day, so there is no need to ever be hungry. Every meal has a large menu posted on the television monitor and you can eat whatever you want. Every meal so far has been amazing.

Staterooms: Sleeping quarters are called staterooms and most commonly sleep two people. Each stateroom has its own television and a bathroom, which is called a head. As The bunks have these neat curtains that keep out the light just in case you and your roommate are working different shifts.

Laundry Room: There are three washer machines and three dryers that crew can use to clean their clothes during off-duty hours

The Entertainment Room:  The living room of the ship. This room has a large screen TV,  comfy recliners, and hundreds of movies, including new releases.

The Acoustics Lab: The acoustics lab is like the situation room for the scientists. There are large computer screens every where that can monitor all of the things the scientists are doing. For the past two days, Rebecca, our Chief Scientist, along with other scientists, lead the calibration from that room.

The Wet Lab: The wet lab will be used to inspect and survey the hake when we start fishing later this week.

I only just began my exploration of the ship. I will have so many more places to share throughout the journey. Later this week I will be asking our Chief Engineer to take me on a behind the scenes tour of “below deck” which is where they turn salt water to freshwater, handle all trash on board, etc. I will also be asking a member of captain’s  officers to teach me a little about the navigation equipment up in the bridge. I will be sure to write about all I learn in future blogs.

Thank you for continuing to join me on this epic adventure.

Justin

 

 

 

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