Sometimes competition isn’t all about who wins and who loses. It’s the experience of seeing hard work come to life, and spending time with friends.

That’s how the seventh-graders in science and engineering at Babcock Ranch Neighborhood School explained competing with remote-operated underwater vehicles.

The students spent a month and a half constructing their robots as part of the SeaPerch ROV program, using 12-volt batteries, SeaPerch motors, PVC pipe, film canisters, strip wire and everyday materials.

Lori McLain, science and engineering teacher said, “The funniest thing for me was when I said go get your film canisters ... they didn’t know what a film canister was.”

Forty-four students competed, building a total of 12 underwater robots. Teams were matched up in four waves in two separate competitions, starting with an obstacle course. Students had to navigate their robot through hoops. One student was tasked with getting the robot through the hoops, and to the other side of the pool, before passing the controller to another person on their team to bring it back through the hoops and to the finish line.

“It’s not about the competition,” said Jaylee Norris, “It’s about hanging out with your friends and learning to build something.”

She said she feels some people are so competitive, that they don’t take the time to really see and appreciate what they made.

McLain said it’s about introducing her students to career opportunities. The students are learning how to collaborate and work as part of a team, something they will have to continue to do in their life in school and their careers.

“A regular seventh-grader wouldn’t do this,” she added.

As students completed their race, some rushed to tell McLain how they did, or what they found went wrong.

Others joined their team to make adjustments to their robots before the search-and-recovery competition.

Nic Stucki, from the Janka Teal team, worked to fix the snorkel on their robot. “It works better than it did before, so we’re happy,” he said.

Team FBRD (Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies) also had to adjust their robot. After the first relay, they realized the excess glue made the propeller too tight, so their robot wouldn’t go underwater.

Clayton Griffith said he felt bad when he noticed the defect.

“It wouldn’t go down, so I just pulled it out,” he said.

McLain said the students are seeing first-hand how RoVs can assist on search-and-recovery efforts, how they are used for marine science and naval research.

“They’re learning skills that can be useful at home or in future careers,” McLain said. “Every kid is a top STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) student, they just need to be given the opportunity. STEM needs to be available to all students.”


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