Pennsbury’s Sea Robotics Club Makes Waves At Regional STEM Event

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The PHS SeaFalcons after the awards ceremony at Temple University.

The Pennsbury High School SeaFalcons, an underwater robotics club representing two teams, won four awards at the March 7th Greater Philadelphia SeaPerch and SeaGlide Challenge hosted by the College of Science and Technology at Temple University. 

“We are so proud of our SeaFalcons. They began the design process in early fall and spent months building and testing their robots. The teams applied science and math principles to tackle specific STEM challenges,” said John Sanders, Club Advisor and Technology Education teacher at PHS. He went on to say, “While we are always impressed by our students, we are especially proud that Pennsbury spirit was acknowledged with the sportsmanship award on Saturday.”

Pennsbury’s SeaPerch team includes Ethan Huegler*, Ericka Hansen*, CJ Ackler*, Sam Booher, Luke McKeon, Jack Shea, Michael Davis, Vinay Belagodu, Riya Lakhani, Sebastian Godun, and Alex Huegler. The SeaGlide team includes: Aiden Stein*, Rory Stalter*, and Ansh Shah*, Miranda Newton, Srujan Kumar Damaraju, Kirti Nagarwal, Adam Steppe, Jacob Katz, April Foster, Ahtesham Alvi, Gabby Podlesny, Tom Cridland, Shivam Patel, Sasha Sahay, and Varun Nair. (*Team Leaders.)

In addition to winning the sportsmanship trophy, the SeaPerch team placed first in vehicle performance and was invited to the 2020 International SeaPerch Challenge at the University of Maryland in May. The SeaGlide team placed first in both best white paper and team presentation/commercial.

Leading up to the competition, students designed, built and tested robots, prepared team presentations, and submitted technical design reports and white papers in advance.

Broken out between qualifying rounds, pool competitions, and formal presentations before judging panels, the Challenge is a full-day event.

At the start of competition, robots are evaluated during two compliance rounds to verify the bots meet technical design requirements.

Teams who pass the technical portion, move to the pool competition. 

SeaPerch and SeaGlide teams participate in separate pool contests.

To prepare for the obstacle course and mission pool event, Pennsbury’s SeaPerch team designed a bot made of PVC pipe made to travel through two underwater obstacle courses.

Following the initial pool competition, the SeaPerch team competed in the “ninja warrior” round as a top six finisher.

Team pilot CJ Ackler managed the controller and was supported by Ethan Huegler during the pool competitions.

Pennsbury’s SeaGlide team coded and programmed a self-propelled miniature “glider” also referred to as an “autonomous underwater vehicle” during the pool rounds.

The glider resembled a small bird or airplane in the water, measuring 40 centimeters in length.

Pool competition standards required that the glider move half the distance across the width of the pool.

Both the speed and the accuracy of the bot were factored into the final score. 

Pennsbury’s glider was managed during the competition by Ansh Shah and Rory Stalter.

The event was sponsored by Philly Naval STEM, including the Office of Naval Research and the Atlantic Society of Naval Engineers.

In addition to participating in the competition and STEM activities, students heard from Captain Dana Simon, US Navy NSWC Philadelphia Division Commanding Officer.

He spoke about the growing need for the Navy to focus on robotics engineering due to the demand for submersible technologies.

Captain Simon encouraged students to consider careers in STEM.

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