USA: Students Compete with Underwater Robots for National Title

Students Compete with Underwater Robots for National Title

Students from across the country competed with underwater robots for a national title during the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-funded 2012 National SeaPerch Challenge in Manassas Park, Va., April 11-13.

The event brought together top middle and high school teams to compete with underwater robots they built as part of a curriculum designed to boost their skills and interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The SeaPerch program is an initiative under the Department of the Navy’s STEM Coordination Office, which facilitates outreach efforts across the service. Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, presented awards to winning teams April 12.

“SeaPerch provides an affordable entry point for underwater robotics, and, from there, directional arrows to other science and engineering competitions and internships-it’s an easy-to-follow ‘yellow brick road’ approach,” said Kelly Cooper, ONR Sea Platforms and Weapons division program officer. “The goal is to expand student awareness and encourage them to pursue STEM education and careers.”

The competition challenges are designed to reflect Navy-relevant operations. This year, the 70 teams are competing in two events: an obstacle course and a salvage operation. Both take place in a community center indoor pool. For the obstacle course, teams must navigate through 24-inch rings which may be oriented in any direction, surface, re-submerge and return through the course. The salvage operation involves five 5-gallon buckets inverted on the pool’s bottom, which each team must float to the surface and then bring poolside.

SeaPerch gives teachers and students the resources they need to build an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from a kit made up of low-cost, easily accessible parts, following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme. The objective is that students will build STEM, problem-solving and teamwork skills.

Naval Today Staff , April 16, 2012; Image: navy