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Chester River

Watershed Observatory

Our vision is a Chesapeake Bay and watershed that is healthy and thriving; one in which natural systems and human communities are in balance. Interdisciplinary academic programs promote the integration of environmental issues, social values, and good old river mud.

STEM Education will be integrated across the Watershed Curriculum, using hands-on programs developed by personnel at the CES; including; Build a Buoy, Basic Observation Buoys & Aquabotz (Underwater Robotics).


Using PVC pieces and Frisbees, students as young as kindergarten-age learn to put together a small floating platform. The challenge is, how many golf balls can your buoy hold? They design and build their platforms and then test them in tubs filled with water. They learn about the importance of creating a buoy with a low center of gravity to help balance the golf balls. After they’ve successfully supported the golf balls, they get a thermometer to record air and water temperature. They attached this to their buoy, and they have just built their first observation buoy.

Basic Observation Buoys (BOB)

This is a more advanced version of the Build-A-Buoy, again constructed of PVC, hardware, and pegboard. This buoy is large and stable enough to carry more instrumentation to gather more data. Students build the buoy and con monitor and collect data including water and air temperature, conductivity, and salinity. They can see the data online in their classrooms.


Aquabotz is a remote-controlled robot that swims underwater. Using basic materials including PVC pipes and off-the-shelf hardware, as well as switches, a controller, speaker wire, a battery, and a propeller, students design and build an underwater vehicle that can be operated remotely from the surface. Students can attach waterproof cameras to the robot to capture images below the surface. The Aquabotz is powered by DC and so is completely safe in water. Combined with the BOB, the Aquabotz allows students in grades 6 through 12 to monitor water and air temperature, conductivity, salinity, and dissolved oxygen, and view the data online.

Click here to see a video of the Aquabotz!

Rivers To Bay Program

Funded by the Maryland Department of Education in partnership with Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, this program educates the educators about the Chester River watershed and the data gathering techniques that will form the backbone of information for the CRWO. Teachers physically travel the river, in kayaks and then in the College’s research vessel Callinectes, from its headwaters to its mouth. They also participate in classroom and field study to learn a variety of classroom skills to integrate into their curricula, including using GPS and GIS to map the watershed, learning how to build BOBS, Aquabotz and other buoys, gathering samples in the water column as well as along the shoreline, and building and implementing sensors to monitor parameters including temperature, salinity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, pH, nitrates, and phosphates. Last summer, 20 teachers participated in this program.