In 1903, Guglielmo Marconi, a scientist and inventor studying and testing wireless signals astounded the world by completing two-way communications between his 35,000 watt station in Wellfleet (yes, right here on Cape Cod) and England.
Marconi’s spirit of engineering, tinkering, and problem solving is alive and well today at the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center (CMMC), home to exhibits and a STEM learning Center.
The building itself is pretty interesting. It is the 1914 Chatham wireless station—refurbished with help from the town of Chatham. Inside is Marconi’s original Trans-Atlantic Wireless Receiving set up, along with quite a collection of vintage radio receivers, transmitter tubes, teletype machines, and a working ship’s radio.
One exhibit explains how Morse code—the international language used in early radio— kept ships in touch with Chatham and telegraph offices buzzing throughout the country in the last century. You can even try your hand at Morse code here!
During WWII the Chatham station had the vital role of intercepting German U-Boats’ coded signals in the Atlantic for the U.S. Navy. This season, a highlight at the museum is an authentic German “Enigma machine.” The exhibit tells the story of how encoding was used by the Nazis and how their code was finally cracked by U.S. Allies.
CMMC also reaches out to teachers and schools with over 65 lessons and activities focused on Communications Engineering and Design. The lessons span science content and promote creative thinking across Grades 1 through 8.
When students dig into activities, they sometimes ask, “Why haven’t we learned this in school?”
Annie Haven, a local middle school science teacher who manages the CMMC STEM programs, thinks the answer is both about teacher training and accessibility. “There is a gap between the young students eager to learn STEM subjects and the materials and training teachers have available to them for the classroom,” she says.
That’s why, Annie adds, CMMC is linking its lessons to STEM standards and supporting teachers by lending out kits and offering professional development.
We’re amazed by all the STEM learning opportunities on offer at CMMC. Here are some, and we promise to keep you posted on more:
STEM After Hours. At Family STEM Nights, younger students and their families work together on math games and learn about design through collaborative design competitions.
“Get Charged” (Experiments with Static Electricity), “Rock Band” (Sound Engineering) and “When Life Gives You Lemons” ( Electrical Engineering) also encourage students and families to learn STEM content in interactive ways.
Summer Science, the Center’s flagship program, is now in its third year, offering 19 STEM courses during July and August for students entering grades 2 to 12. Course topics include robotics, chemical engineering of liquid nitrogen ice cream, astronomy, film making, and marine biology to name a few. Local educators teach the courses, which incorporate great hands-on components—those are Summer Science students working with a lightbulb in the picture at the top of this post.
This fall, there will be a new after school program for middle school students in the Monomoy Schools providing a workshop environment to expand STEM experiences and stimulate learning.