Seaperch Underwater Robotic Championships
Posted by Irina Tabakina
This year the SeaPerch Program will celebrate a half decade of national underwater robotic championships. On the last Saturday in May, the fifth National SeaPerch Challenge will be held on the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (UMassD) campus where 150 teams of middle and high school students from across the country will compete on the national stage.
The phenomenal growth of the event is evident with a simple look back to the inaugural National Challenge, staged in Philadelphia five years ago attracting 38 teams and 187 students.
In May more than 1,200 students, family and friends will gather for a weekend of learning, sharing, competing and excitement. On the line will be the title of national SeaPerch championship, with trophies in all three competition events along with a number of new special awards.
Hosted by the New England Regional SeaPerch Committee, registered participants and spectators will be treated to the “college experience,” as the entire weekend’s activities, including Friday night’s Ice Cream Social and Saturday’s in-pool and poster competition events as well as the Awards Ceremony, dorm room accommodations and meals through Sunday morning, will be available for all participants on the university’s picturesque campus near Buzzard’s Bay.
What is SeaPerch
SeaPerch is the innovative K-12 underwater robotics program, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and managed by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Foundation (AUVSIF). It is geared to train trains teachers and group leaders to inspire students to build their own Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) following an academic curriculum consistent with national learning standards supporting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects with a marine engineering-based theme. The program promotes hands-on learning of engineering and scientific concepts, problem solving, teamwork and critical thinking, and introduces students to potential and rewarding career opportunities in naval architecture, marine, ocean and naval engineering.
“With guidance afforded by AUVSIF and with ONR’s commitment to SeaPerch, we have grown exponentially, reaching more than 200,000 students to date,” said Susan Nelson, Executive Director of SeaPerch. Over the years, in excess of 14,000 teachers and mentors have committed to supporting student learning through this stimulating and fun hands-on activity and to promoting student discovery and excitement of STEM subjects leading to a potential future career path.
Diverse and Targeted
The program reaches a diverse population, so participants in the National Challenge frequently include students from inner cities to remote rural areas of the country to Native American reservations in Minnesota to the islands of Hawaii, all of whom have now been introduced to STEM though SeaPerch.
Beginning on Friday afternoon, May 29, arriving teams will first check into their UMassD dorm rooms, then head over to registration where they will check in and submit their ROVs for a compliance review. For those vehicles requiring adjustments and/or repairs, a triage station with spare parts and tools will be available. Following dinner at the Resident Dining Hall, teams will be treated to an Ice Cream Social where students from all over the country can meet, mingle and compare their design enhancements and innovations. All participants will receive National SeaPerch Challenge T-shirts and giveaway bags with items contributed by the SeaPerch program and its corporate sponsors.
Competition day, Saturday, May 30, will begin at the university’s Tripp Athletic Center with the continuation of registration check-in and compliance reviews. Susan Nelson will preside over the opening ceremony in the gymnasium, with a number of speakers as well as last minute technical instructions for the teams.
Teams may consist of a minimum of one student and one adult leader, and while there is no restriction on the maximum number of students that can participate, five members is the average. A juried poster competition is planned for the middle and high school teams to introduce their designs through graphic displays, with top qualifiers to deliver oral presentations about their design philosophy, construction challenges, and to answer questions from the judges. The in-pool technical competition events requires students to steer their ROV through the Obstacle Course consisting of five, 22-in. diameter submerged hoops oriented in different planes. Each year, the second in-pool event changes, requiring the students to design their vehicles specifically to meet the ever-changing missions. This year the event, aptly named “Finesse,” will test the students’ ability to perform precise maneuvers on the pool bottom. Detailed specifications for both underwater events have been posted on the SeaPerch website, www.seaperch.org, for teams to construct their own events for practice prior to the national competition. Approximately 150 judges and volunteers are also anticipated to attend during the day in order to adequately oversee the multiple poster presentation and in-pool competitions as well as to ensure a rewarding and memorable day for all attendees.
On Saturday evening the Awards Ceremony will take place again in the Athletic Center. Here, first-through-third place trophies in each event for middle school, high school and open classes, special awards and the naming of the 2015 national champions will be made by Susan Nelson.
Invited speakers, representing corporate sponsors, local and state congressional representatives, ONR, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and other military branch personnel, will be able to take part in the day’s activities, as well. They have been encouraged to arrive early and observe the competitions, judge various events and speak first hand with the students before addressing them that evening about the importance of STEM to their future careers.
All student team members will receive participation medals, and be photographed by team for the benefit of their families and schools. Additionally, Certificates of Participation will be available both for student participants and for teachers and advisors to download following the National Challenge. At the conclusion of the award presentations all registrants will enjoy an outdoor lawn party and barbeque.
Sunday, May 18, will be a free day for the teams to explore on their own the rich cultural history and outdoor activities in the greater Dartmouth area including parks and historic sites such as the nearby New Bedford Whaling Museum and Battleship Cove National Heritage Museum on the waterfront in Fall River where the Battleship, USS Massachusetts, the destroyer, USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., the submarine, Lionfish, and PT Boats from the South Pacific are on display.
Sponsorship opportunities are still available for individual, local and corporate funding, and can be viewed on the SeaPerch website. Contact Susan Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org for those interested in sponsorship the event. Also, judges and volunteers are always welcome. Should you be interested in participating as a volunteer or judge on May 30, please contact Cheri Koch at email@example.com.
(As published in the MAY 2015 edition of Marine Technology Reporter - http://www.marinetechnologynews.com/Magazine)