Four students from Bell Middle School’s iSTEM program recently competed at the national level in an underwater robotics competition held at Purdue University in Indiana.
The Bell Middle School program introduces seventh-graders to science, technology, engineering and math-related practical learning. This year’s class helped set up and maintain a tilapia fish aquaponics system.
Four students — Zander Jones, Payton Douglass, Tyler Greenhalgh, and Natalie Capaul — tackled a different type of fish project however, called SeaPerch.
SeaPerch, named after two U.S. Navy submarines, is a Navy-supported project to teach students how to build and operate underwater remote-operated vehicles (ROV’s).
New teams are given a base kit to build their first robots, but innovation, and new designs are encouraged.
Each SeaPerch two-student team includes a spotter and a driver, who can compete in two different events, and are also judged on their technical presentation of their ROV specifics.
In October both teams competed in the state competition, held in Colorado Springs.
Even while competing against some high school teams and several other STEM program schools that have had years of practice at the events, the Bell teams took first and third place.
Greenhalgh said finishing so high on their first try, even against some high school teams, was a cool experience.
“We finished, and other teams were struggling with their first hops still,” Greenhalgh said.
“I think it was because we practiced a lot.”
For the national competition, the four students traveled to Purdue University in Indiana, to try out their ROV skills in the university’s Olympic-sized swimming pool.
“I wasn’t expecting the pool to be that big, but it was really exciting,” Jones said.
The Bell team said they had some engine trouble in the national competition, but enjoyed the chance to compete, and meet with other teams.
Jones said he already had some ideas about how to alter the generic SeaPerch design to be more efficient for next year’s competition.