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Basic Observation Buoys (BOB)
UNC-CSI continues to lead a project to construct and deploy a Basic Observation Buoy or BOB with five schools in northeastern North Carolina. The BOB project focuses on the principles of STEM education, and was first created by NOAA. UNC-CSI has built off of the original BOB model to redesign the buoy and begin experimenting with different types of sensors. The The Cape Hatteras Secondary School Basic Observation Buoyschools involved in the UNC-CSI BOB project are geographically located in close proximity to the Albemarle, Pamlico and Currituck Sounds. Members of UNC-CSI as well as partners from North Carolina Sea Grant and NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary have worked with students to design, construct and deploy water quality buoys in the the bodies of water around thier schools.

At each school students are given the opportunity engineer and construct their own buoy design. Using PVC and other basic materials the students build a buoy that holds a specific payload and must be two stories tall. Through this process the students experience first hand how center of gravity works, the ratio of weight versus float, and buoyancy. Each student has the opportunity to test their skills and compete against classmates, with many students doubling or tripling the required payload.

Construction of the BOB buoy that will be used for the data
Students at Cape Hatteras Secondary School design thier buoy.collection is done under the guidance of the project partners. The buoy’s design was predetermined by UNC-CSI staff to ensure success and standardize the buoy for the purposes of collecting data. Through the construction process students use basic tools to create a scientific device from pvc and a water proof box.

Once constructed, the buoy is tested to be sure all seals are watertight. During this time students are introduced to the atmospheric and water quality sensor software. The sensors require calibration frequently, and students program the  hand-held computer to collect samples every 30 minutes. Once the sensors are prepared the buoy is deployed for a period of 5 days 

During deployment the buoy collects humidity, air temperature and dew point from the atmosphere, and pH, water temperature, dissolved oxygen and conductivity. At the end of a deployment, one week, the students retrieve the buoy and recharge batteries, recalibrate sensors, download the data from the on-board computer and upload it to the internet. The data is shared in a large network of BOB
Students at Pasquotank HS deploy their BOB buoybuoys along the East Coast. This data is available at

This project teaches students about water quality and data collection through the principles of STEM education. The students  engineer a design that’s success is based on scientific principles and its ability to support technology that would be deployed in harsh aquatic environments. Mathematics is used throughout the project to calibrate the atmospheric and water quality sensors as well as convert the units of measurement. Students also gain an understanding of how different weather systems and wind directions would affect the quality of their data. The project provides real challenges that are similar to those that ocean observers have to over come, and the end result is data on the second largest estuarine system in the country that currently does not have on-going water quality monitoring.
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UNC Coastal Studies Institute
UNC Coastal Studies Institute
850 NC 345, Wanchese, NC 27981 tel. 252-475-5400 fax 252- 475-3545