WWU’s SEA Discovery Center Expands Computer Science Department Student Project Programs

Poulsbo, WA — Students from Western’s Computer Science and Cybersecurity programs, located in both Bellingham and at WWU on the Peninsulas, are participating in Senior Projects that support WWU’s public aquarium, SEA Discovery Center, in Poulsbo, WA. The projects will build on senior projects from previous years and are focused on enhancing the ability of SEA Discovery Center staff to monitor the conditions of the aquarium exhibits at SEA, which hold 6,000 gallons of saltwater and hundreds of marine animals. The projects will also enhance the aquarium’s 25,000+ annual visitors’ experience through an interactive kiosk, and underwater camera housed in a floating classroom on Liberty Bay.  

The tank monitoring project began a few years ago after the public aquarium encountered an exhibit overheating, which threatened the marine life. The first student project developed a system to monitor temperatures, report problem temperatures, and chart temperatures over time. That system prevented several problems by promptly notifying SEA staff of developing issues. Over time, the system was expanded to additional tanks and included monitoring water levels in tanks. This year the effort will incorporate additional sensors to monitor salinity and oxygen levels. Students on this project learn about how to integrate sensors into a computer system, connect the systems, and display the information. 

The kiosk project started last year with an interactive display utilizing gamification to teach visitors about plankton in Liberty Bay.  This year, the system will be expanded with additional informational resources, and a remote-controlled underwater camera. This project requires students to work in a cross-disciplinary manner to incorporate the information in an engaging display, and to apply computer science concepts for remote video monitoring of the underwater environment at the floating lab. 

The ongoing partnership between the Computer Science Department and SEA Discovery Center provides benefits to both organizations.  Providing meaningful senior projects with real world applications both increases students’ enthusiasm  for pursuing their projects and encourages them to improve their skills to overcome real-world problems they encounter in delivering a solution for an actual need.  The projects also contribute to their future employment as they can point to the project to show an employer “this is what I did!” 

Dr. Erik Fretheim, the program director, states that “working with the SEA Discovery Center has been great for our students and as a result of the successes we have seen, we are expanding our efforts this year to undertake projects with Environmental Science as well.”  The cross-disciplinary nature of the projects also helps prepare students for their future work environments where they will be working with teams from many different disciplines. 

“We are excited to be able to incorporate the hallmarks of a Western education into our local programs. Students working on real-life projects can immediately see the impact of their work while enhancing their teamwork, strategic thinking and problem-solving skills. Because SEA Discovery Center is a program of Western Washington University, we are uniquely situated to support student projects, internships and practicums in a variety of fields,” said Holly Hill, Senior Director, Western Locations.  


About the SEA Discovery Center

 Located on the shores of Liberty Bay, in Poulsbo, WA, SEA inspires stewardship of the Salish Sea through engaging and informative marine aquarium exhibits. The aquarium is a self-sustaining program of Western Washington University and welcomes 20,000+ visitors annually and 600 local school children. SEA Discovery Center is part of WWU’s Outreach and Continuing Education Department. Contact; 18743 Front Street, Poulsbo, WA 98370 | SEA.wwu.edu | SEA@wwu.edu.  


Media Contact

Holly Hill, Senior Director Western Locations, Holly.Hill@wwu.edu, 360-650-2248