July 21, 2024


The value of truth

Inside Mote SEA as STEM teaching labs and exterior construction grow

14 min read
Inside Mote SEA as STEM teaching labs and exterior construction grow

A behind-the-scenes look of the new Mote Science Education Aquarium was provided recently as construction continues and the facility gets closer to its anticipated 2025 opening date.

Mote SEA differs from other aquariums and attractions since science and education is in its name and is the focal point for all guest experiences.

The new facility will embody Mote’s vision of Oceans for All, doubling the number of visitors exposed to marine science each year and providing no-cost opportunities for schools to utilize specialized STEM teaching labs to ensure that every child has hands-on marine science and technology experiential learning opportunities.

Mote SEA will provide informal science education to a larger, more diverse audience by providing 70,000 students from Sarasota and Manatee county schools hands-on, marine science education — free of charge.

“The rebirth of Mote’s public aquarium as a Science Education Aquarium on the mainland will significantly amplify our ability to provide science education and enhanced levels of ocean literacy to a much larger and more diverse population throughout Florida and from around the world,” said Dr. Crosby, Mote President & CEO. “Mote SEA will be a highly visible gateway to our community that will ensure ‘Oceans for All’ for our teachers, our children, and the next generation of leaders in marine science and technology.”

Strategically collaborating with schools and community groups where needs are the greatest, Mote will continue to educate children who might not otherwise have access to aquariums and marine science education.

Mote SEA will feature 110,000 square-feet and one-million gallons of informal marine science education space including underwater exhibits and interactive teaching labs. From pre-K children to retired adults, from family-focused education programs to National Science Foundation-supported research internships and teacher professional development workshops, Mote SEA will tailor marine science education for myriad audiences at every stage of life.

Most importantly, Mote SEA will provide critical experiential science, technology, engineering and math education in its three K-12 STEM teaching labs to 70,000 students from Sarasota and Manatee County schools, and family day passes to 24,000 Title 1 schools each year, free of charge.

“Collaborating with local counties, like Sarasota and Manatee, is not just about creating curricula, it’s about crafting meaningful experiences that resonate with students, increase their scientific literacy, and ignite their curiosity,” said Aly Busse, Mote’s Associate Vice President for Education. “By working closely with these counties, we ensure that the Mote SEA STEM Teaching Labs offer an education that provides students with the best possible foundation for understanding and conserving the marine ecosystems in their own backyards.”

Interactive teaching labs will be accessible to all schools in the region, including no-cost opportunities, so that each child has the chance to discover marine science and technology, first-hand.

Strategically collaborating with schools and community groups where needs are greatest, Mote will continue to educate students who might not otherwise have access to aquariums and marine science education.

Students will dive into marine STEM in three teaching labs on the first floor of Mote SEA:

  • The Ocean Technology Lab will be equipped with a range of specialized tools and equipment, empowering students to construct, refine, and test their own autonomous underwater vehicles, develop sensors, and engage in various marine engineering activities.
  • The Marine Ecology Lab will feature animal habitats, live animal ambassadors and displays showcasing areas of Mote research  that will help students explore themes such as connected ecosystems and water quality.
  • The Biomedical/Immunology Lab will allow students to use tools such as digital microscopes and explore topics like finding new medicinal compounds from the ocean and using DNA to investigate conservation-related questions, such as the paternity of sea turtle hatchlings.

Mote SEA will also help bridge gaps between education and careers through four Workforce Development Labs on the second and third floors: the Aquaculture and Fisheries Lab, Conservation Lab, Coral Lab and Veterinary Clinic & Diagnostic Center.

In these labs, interns and program participants including high schoolers, undergraduate and graduate students will gain technical skills, hands-on research experience, and career-building networking opportunities by working alongside Mote scientist mentors on their ongoing projects.

Opening of the facility remains on schedule for early 2025.

Mote SEA construction updates

As 2024 started, the construction team began to install the remaining large-scale acrylic panels for the balance of the main habitats throughout Mote SEA. Recently, all exhibit acrylic panels were installed and beginning in March, 2024, teams began to fill the habitats with water to test for any potential leaks. Water testing will continue for the next several weeks.

In addition, stairways to the second and third floors were completed, and a complex network of plumbing and life support systems, necessary to breathe life into the one million gallons of habitat throughout the facility, were recently completed.

Heading into April, the final concrete pour will be completed inside the building, and most notably from the exterior, insulation panels will begin to be installed, shortly followed by the final exterior or “skin” panels. In the next several months, Mote SEA, at least from the outside, will look almost complete.

It is anticipated that the certificate of occupancy — a formal approval from Sarasota County certifying that Mote SEA meets all required construction requirements and is safe for occupation — will be applied for in late summer 2024.

Once the certificate of occupancy is issued, Mote Aquarium biologists can undertake Mote’s thorough transport and acclimation process for the wide array of animals that will ultimately call Mote SEA home, as well as start to work on the interior look and feel to create an unforgettable experience, as well as work on exhibit installation to ensure every exhibit provides guests with a fun, but educational and science-driven experience.

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