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May 15, 2012

Wood duck project

Students and staff setting up boxes for nesting ducks.

Wood duck project
Wood duck eggs inside the box.

Wood duck project
Camera catches a duck taking up residence in the new box.
Contributed photos

BRILLION Wis. -- A group of students at Brillion High School has taken science, technology, engineering and math to a whole new level with a project that's been five months in the making. The end result is an inside look at the life of a wood duck that anyone can watch over the Internet.

Nearly a dozen students divided up into three teams as part of project TrailerCAM: bio-interfacing, information technology, and power management. Their task was to create a wood duck habitat equipped with a video camera capable of streaming live video worldwide.

"This is an ideal example of how learning and using science, technology, engineering and mathematics at the same time can be both highly effective and very engaging for both students and their teachers, "said Ryan Peterson, one of two Brillion High School teachers spearheading this project.

Two weeks after the new homes went up at the Brillion Wildlife Area, a hen moved in and laid a dozen eggs. Now everyone is watching to see when the babies hatch and literally jump into their new world.

"We all enjoy watching our hen," explained Peterson, "but the duck in the box is not what this was about. The students have a good understanding of the layers upon layers of complex problems that needed to be solved and continue to be monitored."

"This program is a wonderful opportunity for the Department of Natural Resources to team up with educators to give students an opportunity to learn about the world around them," said Dick Nikolai, a DNR wildlife biologist. "They not only learned the technical aspects of this, but also the wildlife and habitat of these ducks which live in right here in their community."

The young wood ducks are expected to hatch between May 14 and May 17 and will jump out of their home less than 24 hours later. All of it will be broadcast online Brillion STEM wood duck project (exit DNR) for anyone to watch. That doesn't mean an end to the TrailerCAM project, though. With the help of more than a dozen groups like the Natural Resources Foundation, the school hopes to use the equipment in a variety of ways from broadcasting events from around the community, to creating virtual field trips where the camera brings the location into the classroom without the travel.

"The learning that took place to get us this far was our primary motivation," Peterson explained, "and now we are mostly sitting back and enjoying the results."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dick Nikolai, DNR wildlife biologist - 920-832-1804 or Trish Ossmann, DNR public affairs manager - 920-662-5122 or Ryan Peterson, STEM instructor, Brillion High School - 920- 716-2492

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 15, 2012

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