Laura Grimm: Who are these people in uniform? July 13, 2022

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Laura Grimm

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

July 4 – July 22, 2022

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of Lake Erie

Geographic Area of Cruise: Lake Erie

Date: July 13, 2022

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 42 10.30’ N

Longitude: 080 17.60’ W

Sky Conditions: Few clouds

Visibility: 10+ miles

Wind Speed: 6.1 knots

Wind Direction: 288 W

Lake Temperature: 22.0 C

Wave Height: 1 foot

Dry Bulb: 21.1 ᵒC

Wet Bulb: 17.7 ᵒC

Calculated Relative Humidity: 75%

Electronic nautical chart showing many folding-over parallel lines marking the back and forth track of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson off Presque Isle
We are making great progress! This is an Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) display of our current hydrographic survey progress. ECDIS is a system used for nautical navigation that serves as an alternative to paper nautical charts. The colorful lines indicate where we have used the Multibeam Echo Sensor (MBES) to measure the depth and physical features of the lake bottom.

Science and Technology Log

Seeing several people aboard in uniform caused me to ask, “Is NOAA part of the military?”

illustration of the NOAA Corps insignia; an eagle stands on a globe with two ship anchors crossed behind it. the eagle has a shield with blue stars and red and white stripes. it reads: NOAA COMMISSIONED CORPS 1917
NOAA Commissioned Corps Insignia

According to the NOAA Corps website, “The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps) is one of the nation’s eight uniformed services. NOAA Corps officers are an integral part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and serve with the special trust and confidence of the President.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, known as the NOAA Corps, is one of just two uniformed services with no enlisted or warrant officers. The Corps is made up of engineers, oceanographers, geologists, and meteorologists (among others) who support federal departments in earth science projects. The officers operate NOAA’s ships, fly aircraft, manage research projects, conduct diving operations, and serve in staff positions throughout NOAA. Prior to going out to sea, NOAA Corps officers attend 18 weeks of training at the US Coast Guard Academy’s Officer Candidate School (OCS) in New London, CT. They are not always out to sea; NOAA Corps officers who work on ships rotate between driving the ship for two years and supporting science missions ashore for three years. NOAA Corps officers enable NOAA to fulfill mission requirements, meet changing environmental concerns, take advantage of emerging technologies, and serve as environmental first responders. 

The history of the NOAA Corps can be traced back to 1807 when Thomas Jefferson signed a bill establishing the “Survey of the Coast,” which charted the country’s coasts and waterways. Their mission has expanded well beyond coastal mapping. It currently has 320+ officers who oversee more than a dozen ships and nine specialized aircraft, including the Hurricane Hunters.

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, ~ 30% or 10 out of 34 souls aboard are part of the NOAA Corps. The positions of Commanding Officer (CO), Executive Officer (XO), Operations Officer (OPS), and Operations Officer in Training (OPS IT) are all filled with members of the NOAA Corps. The OPS is also called a Field Operations Officer (FOO). (OPS = FOO) The Medical Officer (MO) is often an ensign, however, on TJ, our MO is a professional mariner. All officers are trained to be an Officer of the Deck (OOD); prior to qualification they serve as a Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD). These are the people who drive, or are learning to drive, the ship. Other duties the Junior Officers serve are Navigation Officer (Nav-O), Damage Control Officer (DCO), and the Environmental Compliance Officer (ECO).

TJ serves as a training ground for Ensigns. These are people new to the Corps. Some have attended maritime academies, or been in prior service, such as the U.S. Navy. However, their prior experience must include a baccalaureate degree, and completion of at least 48 semester hours in science, technology, math, or engineering course work pertaining to NOAA’s missions. They become ensigns after graduation from OCS, also known as NOAA’s Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC). You see them all over the ship. They are eager to learn and seem to train or study non-stop! No wonder! There is so much to learn. Ensigns fill many “collateral positions” such as Medical Officer (MO) and Damage Control Officer (DCO). The DCO are on the fire and emergency squad.

ensigns pose casually for a photo on an upper deck of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. they are all wearing the Corps-issued navy pants or shorts, and NOAA Corps t-shirts.
Currently, there are five NOAA Corps Ensigns on Thomas Jefferson.  From left to right are ENS Geiger, ENS Brostowski, ENS Castillo, ENS Foxen, and ENS Meadows. They are all very fun-loving, dedicated, knowledgeable, and eager to learn.

The maritime academies in the United States are listed below.  Click on the links below if you wish to learn more about any of these institutions.

College Degree granting institutions offering maritime degrees and USCG-approved courses include:

I wish I had known about the NOAA Corps when I was making career decisions.  It has the discipline and culture of the armed services, yet it is focused on the sciences.  The upper age limit to enter the Corps is 42 years old.  I guess at this point, I can only encourage others to consider the NOAA Corps as a career option.  😊

Click here &/or watch the following video for more information about the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.

NOAA Corps Recruiting Video

Personal Log

I have been asked to give a presentation to the crew about the Dalton Local School’s STEAM program.  They also would like to know possible lesson ideas I will develop in the future and “takeaways” from the Teacher at Sea experience.

The following is a slide show of my presentation.

  • title slide reads: NOAA Teacher at Sea: Laura Grimm, Dalton Local School District, Dalton, Ohio
  • slide reads: Kindergarteen through 8th grade STEAM. photos: students beneath the sign to Dalton Local Elementary & Middle School, and a bulldog.
  • slide reads: 8th grade - Robotics & 3D printing. images of a robot, 3-d printed objects.
  • slide reads: 7th grade - Energy and Inventions. photos of a Maker Space toolbox, students building things.
  • slide reads: 6th Grade - Greenhouse & Life Cycles. photos of students in a vegetable garden, illustrations of flowers, chicks, fish fry.
  • slide reads: 5th Grade - Plan a Trip to Mars: - Getting to Mars - Entering the Atmosphere - Landing - Roving - Building a Satellite - Colonizing the Surface - Mission Patch. photos.
  • slide reads: Kindergarten through 4th Grade Support Science Curricula with STEAM Activities. photos of students.
  • "You learn if you want to, so you've got to want to learn." - Katherine Johnson
  • photo of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson in front of Statue of Liberty. NOAA logo.
  • Possible Future MIddle School Lessons: Design, build & program robotic davits with sensors and articulated arms, How far can you see the horizon? etc.
  • Possible Future Elementary School Lessons: program Bee Bot robots to pick up holidays, finding the shortest distance between holidays, etc.
  • Take Aways... New knowledge of science and technology, How this science and tech interfaces with real-life situations, respect for all who work/live on ship, etc.
  • Thank you for this awesome opportunity! photo of crewmembers presenting Laura the flag, Thank You graphic

Human Interest Poll (HIP)

Recently, I started a Human-Interest Poll (HIP) where I post a question on the bulletin board outside of the lounge and give the crew 2-3 days to respond.  The latest question was, “Where was the coolest place you have gone on a ship?”  See their responses below.

outline of the world continents with the letters A-M imposed on the locations listed below. Caption: Where was the coolest place you have gone on a ship?
Results of Human-Interest Poll. It is so HIP!

A = The Channel Islands    

B = San Juan Islands                                       

C = Japan

D = Guam                                                           

E = Norfolk, VA (Home)                                

F = Bering Sea in Winter

G = Point Hope, AK                                         

H = Panama Canal                           

I = Little Diomede Island, AK

J = St. Lawrence Seaway                               

K = Bali                                                                 

L = Adak, AK

M = The Equator                                              

N = Ocean View, DE

Stay tuned!  The next HIP is, “What were the highest seas you have ever experienced?  Where?”

For the little Dawgs . . .

Q: Where is Dewey today?  Hint: Athletes like to use this room.

Dewey the beanie monkey hangs from exercise equipment
Dewey likes to move around, stretch and strengthen his muscles.  After All, he is a monkey.

A: Dewey is in the Exercise Room.  This room is in the bottom floor of the ship.  I heard that it is one of the best exercise rooms in the NOAA fleet of ships!  Even though this is a large ship, you really do not get many “steps” each day.  Exercising is part of staying healthy.  I try to work out each day.  It is an interesting experience to use the treadmill when we are experiencing 4–6-foot waves!

  • room nameplate: Exercise Room 3-22-0
  • Dewey is hanging from a piece of exercise equipment.
  • Dewey the beanie monkey sits on a barbel
  • Dewey the beanie monkey sits on a barbel (wider view)
  • Dewey the beanie monkey sits on a control panel
  • Dewey the beanie monkey sits on the control panel of the treadmill (wider view)
  • exercise bike and elliptical trainer
  • Dewey the beanie monkey sits on a rack of hand weights
  • flag of the Thomas Jefferson exercise room. THOMAS JEFFERSON, illustration of eagle lifting weights, S-222

Joke of the Day

Q: Where do ghosts go to sail?

A Lake Eerie!

Laura shows off her NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson sweatshirt (and NOAA Teacher at Sea hat)
I am one very happy NOAA Teacher at Sea!

I am enjoying sharing my NOAA Teacher at Sea experience with you.  I am looking forward to sharing it with my K-8 STEAM students in the fall!

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