DODEA students race robots underwater for science competition at Yokosuka

via Stars and Stripes

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Students recently built, tested and fielded a fleet of underwater robots for a competition marking National Engineering Week at the home of the Navy’s 7th Fleet south of Tokyo.

“We want to enhance STEM, and we have new science standards this year,” said Quiana Obeng, assistant principal at the Department of Defense Education Activity’s Nile C. Kinnick High School, while watching remotely operated robotic vehicles navigate a submerged obstacle course at Yokosuka’s Purdy Pool.

“This gives real-world standards to what they are taught in the classroom,” she added.

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics — subjects often lumped together as educational priorities.

Four teams of students from Kinnick and Yokosuka Middle School — with assistance from Naval Facilities Engineering Command volunteers and the Navy dive locker — built four remotely operated underwater vehicles, or ROVs.

The teams competed to see which ROV could finish the obstacle course first. Students on the winning team received $10 gift Navy Exchange gift cards donated by the middle school’s National Junior Honor Society.

Students worked after school over three days to build and test the ROV kits, which were manufactured by Seaperch, a company that produces robotic projects for teaching purposes. At a cost of $180 per Seaperch unit, the school budget is the only thing keeping the ROV competition from becoming an annual event, said Angela Lewis, a biology and robotics club teacher. She said the school is looking for grants and fundraisers to help pay for future projects.

Many of the parts were scrounged together by students who were very interested in making the ROVs, she added.

“This first event was thrown together, but the kids really wanted to do it,” Lewis said. “Everything just lined up in the end to make things happen.”

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