Mercy students explore cave, help set up STEM program

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Mercy engineering design students, from left, Claire Curry, Olivia Waldridge, Jill Vorreiter and Julianne Wise worked together inside Mammoth Cave Oct. 11 where they piloted a robotic submarine, in the foreground, through an uncharted part of the cave’s waterways. (Photo Special to The Record)

Record Staff Report
Mercy Academy students studying STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math — piloted a robotic submarine into a previously uncharted part of Mammoth Cave National Park’s underground waterways on Oct. 11.

The students have been using robots since last fall to help scientists at the park map the cave’s aquatic floor and to determine how water gets in and out of the cave. Students use submersible robots — which are operated remotely — to carry out the exploration. The robots were built and programmed by students during an engineering-design class.

Mercy students plan to return monthly through the end of the school year to continue exploring Mammoth Cave, according to a press release from the school.

The STEM program at Mercy received a mini-grant this month from Kentucky Girls STEM Collaborative, an organization whose goal is “to strengthen Kentucky’s capacity to increase the number of women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” according to its website.

The grant will allow Mercy to help fund an after school program, along with the Kentucky Science Center and the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana, for middle schoolers who are Girl Scouts. The goal of the “Girls Maker Club” is to help girls develop an interest in STEM fields by providing them with the opportunity for hands-on learning, according to a press release from the school.

Seven engineering-design students from Mercy will serve as mentors in the program. Program participants will have the opportunity to create wearable light-up accessories and learn the basics of computer coding and engineering design.

Mercy started its STEM program two years ago. In January, the high school became the first all-girl school in the nation to receive STEM certification from AdvancED, a national non-profit accrediting organization.

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