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Seawolf Spotlight: Luke Saletta ’24

Seawolf Spotlight: Luke Saletta ’24

Tabor First High School to Use Nortek Technology

“Tabor has allowed me to explore my passions by giving me the classroom opportunity to do completely independent research,” says Luke Saletta ’24 about his AT Marine Science class. “My teacher is a wonderful resource, but all the ideas, and the work to make them happen, are my own— just as the course is designed to be.”

AT Marine Science is offered to ten individuals a year, after a selective application process by the Marine Science Department is conducted. The class requires each student to develop a yearlong, graduate-level research project. Specific research may fall within any of the marine science topics including marine ecology, oceanography, marine conservation, and marine biology. The course will culminate with a publishable, scientific paper, and a public presentation of the research at the end of May.

“We all chose something we were passionate about, and many of us went through several project ideas over the summer before deciding on one. My project is more unique than some of my classmates, as I chose to guide my overall project with a purpose instead of just one hypothesis. My purpose is to expand and evolve engineering-based marine science research tools at Tabor,” shares Saletta.

After researching and conducting a design project on the effects of ocean acidification in middle school, Saletta was naturally drawn to the demands of AT Marine Science. He says, “I have always had a passion for building and engineering, and a close connection with the ocean.”

In addition to his prior interest in marine science and engineering, Saletta’s project was inspired by a visit with a representative from Nortek, a tech development group that designs and produces scientific instruments to measure water in motion. In his oceanography class last year, Saletta learned how to operate the Nortek Eco, an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP).  

“The Eco measures the volume and flow of water currents at variable depths in the water column, and Tabor is the first high school in the United States to own and operate one. Since the class decided I was most suited to have the device connected to my phone to collect data, I guess that technically makes me the first high school student in the United States to operate one,” explains Saletta.

To convey his purpose, Saletta is overseeing multiple facets of work. His primary project is developing a mobile deployment platform for the Nortek Eco. Saletta has learned that the deployment method designed by Nortek, while well-suited for water deeper than six feet, doesn’t work as well in the shallowest of waters and lacks precision when deployed from a boat. Using this knowledge, Saletta was able to form his hypothesis.

As it states in his hypothesis, “When the Nortek Eco ADCP is mounted on the BlueRobotics BlueROV, the current profiler will be capable of gathering significant data in a specific underwater location that is not feasible to measure when deploying the profiler using a surface-dropped buoy. The mobility of this deployment method would allow for ease of measurement of more complex water systems, such as along a trench, in an underwater cave, or across multiple points of a channel.”

Saletta has made considerate progress so far in working with the ROV, a remotely operated vehicle. According to Saletta, when he acquired the ROV it was in a poor and unmaintained condition. To salvage it, he installed a factory-designed robotic gripping arm and designed a spool system to manage the ROV’s 100-meter tether. From there, Saletta went through many iterations of computer-aided design and 3D printing prototypes before achieving a mounting bracket system for the ADCP, and was in the process of testing the combined system before the cold weather set in.

In addition to the ROV, he has also been working with the Akronos, an automated water sampling device, that belongs to Ged Davis ’22. Last year Davis’ project in AT Marine Science was to design and build a machine that could automatically test a dozen water quality parameters for 1/10th the price of machines commercially available.

“His machine is marvelous, and I am currently in the process of becoming fluent enough in its code so that I can put it into a state of continuous operation,” says Saletta about his former classmate’s project.  

In the coming months, Saletta will either prove or challenge his hypothesis and present it to the Tabor community. We look forward to learning and sharing more about the finished project!

Besides AT Marine Science in the MANS, Saletta can also be found on the SSV Tabor Boy as a Watch Officer, in the observatory as the Co-President of the Astronomy Club, on the Travis Roy Rink for JV Hockey, or throughout campus as a member of other various clubs.