USA: Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Units Adding SeaPerch Underwater Robotic Kit

Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Units Adding SeaPerch Underwater Robotic Kit

Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) across the country began receiving the Office of Naval Research (ONR) SeaPerch underwater robotic kit, Sept. 17.

Striving for more Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses, numerous schools around the U.S. are adding to SeaPerch to their unit curriculum this school year.

SeaPerch is an innovative underwater robotics program that equips teachers and students with the resources they need to build an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) in an in-school or out-of-school setting.

Students build the ROV from a kit comprised of low-cost, easily accessible parts, following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme. The SeaPerch Program provides students with the opportunity to learn about robotics, engineering, science, and mathematics while building an underwater ROV through a hands-on experience. Throughout the project, students learn engineering concepts, problem solving, teamwork, and technical applications.

“I think the program is great especially since this is my first year,” said NJROTC Cadet Petty Officer 3rd Class William Rhodes, 15, a sophomore from Washington High School in Indiana. “It really got me interested in engineering and science.”

According to ONR’s SeaPerch website (, “building a SeaPerch ROV teaches basic skills in ship and submarine design and encourages students to explore naval architecture and marine and ocean engineering principles. It also teaches basic science and engineering concepts and tool safety and technical procedures. Students learn important engineering and design skills and are exposed to all the exciting careers that are possible in naval architecture and naval, ocean, and marine engineering.”

Susan Nelson, executive director of ONR’s SeaPerch Program and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Foundation, said the purpose of SeaPerch, with the assistance of ONR and AUVSI, is to find the next generation of STEM professionals.

“The Secretary of the Navy has said that over the next five years he wants to double the Navy’s investment in STEM because the Navy is looking down the road and there aren’t enough students in the pipeline to fill the technical positions the Navy, and DoD (Department of Defense) in general, will have in 10 years,” said Nelson.

ONR and AUVSI worked to come up with the SeaPerch kits and provide the kits to middle schools and high schools around the country. Each student kit costs $143 while kits for teachers cost $223 each. A federal grant has been provided to ONR that schools can apply for to defer the total cost of ordering the SeaPerch kits.

“SeaPerch is just one of the (STEM) programs out there today.” said Nelson. “We started five years ago with 750 students and two school districts, and we just passed 50,000 students this year that are working with SeaPerch.”

Some of those students today come from numerous NJROTC units across the country. In the Midwest, retired Cmdr. George Clifford, Area 3 manager, said SeaPerch has already gained lots of interest with his units.

“The SeaPerch camp conducted July 22, at Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane, Ind., showed high promise for greater participation next year,” said Clifford.

The unit from Washington was one unit that participated in the Crane camp and they are looking to double their participation 2013.

“As the cadets say, and I share their opinion, ‘SeaPerch is the’,” said Capt. Neil May, Washington’s Navy Senior Instructor (NSI). “It entails many and varied levels of higher order thinking. Seaperch is often marketed as a tool at the middle-school level, but can be presented to challenge high school students as well, with very satisfying results.”

Cadet Master Chief Andrew Kingsolver, 17, and a senior at Washington High enjoyed his experiences at the SeaPerch Camp at NSWC Crane.

“It really got me interested in engineering and (the project) helped teach a lot of problem solving,” said Kingsolver. “I’m trying to talk one of my teachers to start a SeaPerch team in my ‘Project Lead the Way’ class. This is an Indiana education initiative that works to get students interested in engineering. There are several aspects of the class, like robotics and computer integrated manufacturing, that SeaPerch would be a good fit.”

“It was also very good in teaching team building and how we needed to come together as a team to see SeaPerch operate under the water successfully,” said Cadet Petty Officer Reed Norton, 16, and a junior at Washington.

In Texas, Area 10 manager, retired Cmdr. Mike Hale is looking to expand the SeaPerch program and competitions in Area 10 this year, with at least one additional unit sponsored field meet-type event that adds a SeaPerch competition.

“It has always been hard in Texas to find Navy sponsored events to participate in due to the scarcity of Navy commands,” said Hale. But close coordination with the three NROTC units (Rice University, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas) and the three Navy Recruiting Districts ensures that we don’t miss any opportunity to take advantage of the few events that do occur. One of our units, Los Fresnos NJROTC, did qualify for the SeaPerch Nationals last year while competing at HESTEC (Hispanic Engineering, Science, and Technology) Week at the University of Texas (Pan-American) and by virtue of that traveled to Manassas, Va., for the national competition.”

The NJROTC program is a citizenship and leadership development program with an impact that reaches beyond the NJROTC classroom and into the communities where NJROTC units are located. NJROTC seeks to instill in participating U.S. high school students the values of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment. NJROTC seeks to instill a strong foundation of citizenship in America’s future leaders.

It is not a recruiting program, but a citizenship program. Schools that have NJROTC programs benefit from the program’s stellar reputation and the cadets’ community service.

The NJROTC program is currently overseen by Commander, Naval Service Training Command (NSTC), Rear Adm. David F. Steindl, headquartered at Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill. NSTC oversees 98 percent initial officer and enlisted accessions training for the Navy. This training includes the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) program at more than 150 colleges and universities that either host NROTC units or have cross-town enrollment agreements with a host university. NSTC also oversees Officer Training Command (OTC) in Newport, R.I., Recruit Training Command (RTC) at NSGL, as well as NJROTC.

NSTC’s NJROTC program is divided into 11 areas across the United States that also includes units in Italy, Spain, Japan and Guam. There more than 86,000 student cadets in the more 580 units. Area 13 covers the most ground starting in Papillion, Neb., and stretching across the Pacific Ocean to Yokosuka, Japan. There are 13 Northwest states in Area 13 including Hawaii, Guam and Japan, totaling 6,086.9 miles. Texas and Florida are their own areas with 68 units in Florida (Area 4) and 55 units in Texas (Area 10). Area 6 in North Carolina and South Carolina high schools host 67 units while Area 11 in Southern California and Arizona have more than 50 units. Other areas encompass the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Plains States and Southwest.

Naval Today Staff, September 18, 2012; Image:  US Navy