Using low-cost sensor technology in novel ways has become a hallmark of Jim Manning’s many research projects, whether they be ocean drifters used to track surface currents, weather stations and net sensors on commercial fishing vessels, or temperature sensors on lobster traps. Sensors have even been placed on mini-sailboats used for educational programs.
Several Cape Cod high schools, including St. John Paul II in Hyannis and Cape Cod Tech in Harwich, have helped construct the prototypes.
Manning, an oceanographer at the Woods Hole Laboratory of NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, is focused on gaining ocean observations that will help him and other oceanographers validate ocean circulation models. For nearly 20 years he has found ways to collect data using low-cost sensors in unusual ways, mixing off the shelf computer technology with recycled household items and common materials from the local hardware store or a backyard to solve a research question.
In the process he has combined his commitment to education by involving students and educators, who often build the devices and help test his latest ideas. They learn about oceanography and earth sciences, boat building and design, map reading and geography, history and international relations, even how to do some basic computer coding. The projects encourage problem solving and teamwork, and show the value of creative thinking.