Caleb Flaim, Ocean Technology Star!

Model in the dark!

Caleb Flaim is a Junior at the UW school of Oceanography pursuing minors in applied math and climate science. Caleb is the Ocean Technology Center's (OTC) Coordinator, where he oversees the tech equipment and helps students. Recently, Caleb has been working on an amazing project. He has put a lot of time and energy into these, and they have been highly successful.

Learn more about his experiences and project from a recent email interview.

--Interview September 2022 by Lauren Bayne, UW Oceanography class of 2022


What sparked your interest in ocean technology? How did you find the Ocean Technology Center? 

My interest in technology was initially sparked in high school when I joined a competitive robotics team as a freshman. I found the OTC through applying for an ‘ocean maker space position’ that my advisor sent out over the 2021 summer. This position ended up working closely with the ocean sensors class I took; it was sort of a nose-dive into ocean technology. 


How has working in the Ocean Tech Center been? What has been the most challenging task and what has been the craziest thing you’ve learned? 

Working in the OTC has been great. It allowed me to form connections with the ocean tech professors and even take on a research project under the guidance of Dr. Seroy. 

My most challenging task as the OTC coordinator was reorganizing and inventorying the back room of the OTC; I do not think the room had been sorted and cleaned out in over a decade. 

The craziest thing I have learned is how much time and effort goes into the designing and building of ocean sensors and electronics. This was further emphasized while I was on the Visions22 research cruise and interacting with/watching top-notch ocean tech. 


How was the Earth Educators Rendezvous conference? What did you present?

The Earth Educators Rendezvous was an incredible experience. Everyone in attendance was education-minded and very open and accepting of conversing with an undergraduate. I met a professor from Pennsylvania with whom I am now working to make a cheap and easily produced hydrogeology teaching model. 

I presented a poster on a 3D printed teaching model of thermohaline circulation that Dr. Seroy and I piloted in OCEAN 200 quiz sections. I built the model hoping to bridge a gap between 2D data and 3D understanding in intro ocean education: many ocean concepts are complex 3D phenomena that are mainly taught through 2D images and graphs. The poster discussed how I built the model and whether the data we collected improved students’ understanding of thermohaline circulation. 


Can you briefly explain this model and what you have used it for so far? (OCEAN 200) (OCEAN 102) 

The model is essentially a top view map of thermohaline circulation that has been pulled into a third dimension, adding depth. It is made completely of 3D components and aims to convey traditional thermohaline circulation diagram information through LED lights and an interactive joystick. A 3D printed tube that follows the path of ocean conveyor belt circulation is illuminated via LEDs and displays either temperature or salinity data, taken from ARGO floats, that students can interact with via a joystick. The model was first piloted in Spring 22 OCEAN 200 quiz sections where it was used by 65 students. 


What will the future of this model look like moving forward? 

The immediate future of the model is to be used in the Early Fall Start offering of OCEAN 200. Students will work through the lab that Professors Nuwer, Seroy, and I developed to work through the data the model conveys. In the more distant future, the model will be updated to include animations showing how water flows around the planet, LED information pertaining to general biological productivity, and buttons that allow the color gradients to be shifted so that color-blind students can more easily use the model. 


What are your goals post-graduation with ocean technology? 

My goals post-graduation with ocean technology are to continue improving my ability to build sensors and electronic devices, including teaching aids. I am not entirely sure what avenue I will take, but I hope to work in an ocean technology/engineering lab and spend time at sea before attending graduate school. 


What has been your best memory in the Ocean Tech Center? 

My best memory in the OTC is probably when Mikelle Nuwer and Eddie Sams, a videographer from the communications department that worked on the Bill Nye the Science Guy set, interviewed me and videoed the model. It validated the six months of work that I put into this project. Here is that interview.