Heike Robinson, physics teacher, and sea kayaker, measures the temperature of Antarctic waters with a LabPro, Palm, and Stainless Steel Temperature Probe.

Four years ago, Heike Robinson started sea kayaking. The more she learned about paddling, the more she discovered about the physics behind it. She started using examples from boating to help her students visualize many concepts, such as force, resistance, heat-flow rate (hypothermia), vector addition, and moment of inertia. In February 2004, Robinson and several companions paddled on an unsupported expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula. Fewer than 20 people in the world have ever taken on this challenge, and she wanted to take Vernier sensors with her!

Using a Palm handheld with a LabPro, Heike measured temperature and conductivity of the water, temperature of the air, and visible, UVA and UVB light intensities. “The UVA and UVB data will be incorporated into my unit on radiation,” she says. “I will also share these data with our environmental science classes, where I make presentations on the ozone holes in the Arctic and Antarctic. One of my classes builds a flexible solar charger for kayak decks. The light intensity measurements will help them determine if solar panels can be used as power source on these kayak expeditions.”

The conductivity of the water is interesting, because the meltwater released from icebergs, ice flows, and glaciers freezes at a higher temperature than the saltwater of the bay.

Heike Robinson is a physics teacher with Mentor Public Schools at Lakeland Community College, Kirtland, OH. The journal of her trip can be found at http://www.mentorhigh.com/teacher/robinson/