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Students Build Camera In Search Of Rare Footage of Antarctic Icefish

 Lindblom student Faith Jones works on a robotic camera that will be used to try and get footage of icefish in Antartica.
Lindblom student Faith Jones works on a robotic camera that will be used to try and get footage of icefish in Antartica.
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Paula Dell; Wikicommons/UWE KILS

ENGLEWOOD — Nine students from Lindblom High School have dedicated the last year to building a robotic camera designed to photograph a rare creature called the icefish found in Antarctica.

The teens, mostly seniors, shipped their “Fish Spy” device last week to researchers they’re working with at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. This independent project is funded by the National Science Foundation and run by the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States.

With the help of their biology teacher Paula Dell and electrical engineering teachers, the students built a time-lapse photography system for the researchers to take to Antarctica in April. There isn’t much footage of these rare fish in their natural habitat, Dell said.

The students, most a part of the school’s robotics club, developed a system using a GoPro camera, a marine battery and an underwater light.

“I’m really excited that they are interested in engineering and underwater,” Dell said. “We know more about outer space than we do about the deep sea.”

The Fish Spy is designed to take photos of the icefish. [Provided by Paula Dell]

She has been working with the researchers for the last few years and has even traveled to Antarctica twice with them. In 2013, a different group of students designed a similar device that was pulled behind a ship. Unlike that one, this new model will be dropped 200 meters below sea level. It will remain for a 24-hour period. The ice fish will be drawn to it with bait.

These fish are interesting to study said Danica Jayco, 18, because they’re completely white and have no red blood cells.

She said most of the students have had experience operating machinery through the robotics team.

Chris Hernandez, 18, a Garfield Ridge resident, said working on the project has been an eye-opening experience. He recently discovered that he loved engineering.

“It’s something I want to do in the future,” he said. “This was eye-opening to see how I can take those [robotic] skills and apply them to something I can do in real life.”

Group partner Andrea Bossi, 17, isn’t on the robotics team so there was more of a learning curve, she said.

“It was kind of scary too because those are some high-grade tools we use, but beyond learning about the icefish, I also got to learn a lot about engineering and electrical stuff,” she said.  

Being a part of the project has sparked an interest in possibly studying either engineering or robotics in college, she said.

Andrea Bossi helps build the "Fish Spy" device. [Paula Dell]

Denise Hernandez, 18, said she’s also looking forward to college. Hernandez, a West Lawn resident, wants to major in applied physics or become a teacher. She said she appreciated the networking that came with this project.

“We reached out to other teachers at Lindblom who previously worked in the private sector as engineers and computer scientists and they really helped us out,” she said. “We also reached out to scientists across the country.”

Dell said the students will Skype with the researchers sometime in April. She said working with the students has been amazing.

“They’re so dedicated, sharp and curious,” she said. “It’s such an honor to work with kids like this.”