It’s a two-person job. One teammate watches an underwater remote-controlled vehicle while using the remote to steer it through a series of obstacles. The other keeps the cord from getting tangled around other objects.
“They can’t do it alone,” said teacher and robotics coach Dorinda Hearn.
The SeaPerch team at North Pines Middle School in the Central Valley School District worked hard to build the underwater remote-operated vehicle (ROV) they used to compete last month at Eastern Washington University in the regional contest.
The team, Cole Morse, 13, and Evan Peters, 12, came in second and earned a chance to compete at the National SeaPerch Challenge on May 18 in Indianapolis.
The two built their SeaPerch ROV from scratch using PVC pipe they cut themselves. They wired the remote as well as the phone jack they use to connect it to the ROV.
Peters said the two had to solve problems every time they did something new to the ROV.
“When the girls (in the SeaPerch club) painted it we couldn’t get it to move,” Peters said. They also worked out a problem with the soldering, figured out what to do when one propeller didn’t work and added weights to get the perfect balance as it moves through the water.
“We really had to balance it out perfectly, otherwise it wouldn’t work,” Peters said.
The two had never had a chance to practice using their ROV in the water before the competition at EWU. Peters maneuvered the ROV through the course in 15 minutes and 20 seconds. Morse whizzed through it in 3 minutes and 40 seconds. Officials averaged the two times to determine their score.
Morse had an advantage, because he had participated in this competition as a sixth-grader. It was the first time for Peters, a sixth-grader now.
Before they head to Indianapolis, Hearn hopes to find them a pool for practice.
The SeaPerch club at North Pines includes 24 students in grades six, seven and eight. Hearn said the program meets after school and is funded through the 21st Century School Fund.
Those funds pay for an instruction manual and equipment to build four ROVs. It doesn’t pay for a trip to nationals, so Hearn, Morse, Peters and the team alternate, Austin Greene, are coming up with ideas to raise $3,000 to pay for airplane tickets, hotel rooms and registration for the competition.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids,” said Principal Gordon Grassi. He said the program teaches them how to work together and gives them hands-on experiences which help in learning. He said sometimes students who struggle academically often excel in a program such as robotics.
“It’s very real world,” Grassi said.
Naturally, their parents are very proud.
“I’d like to have an engineer to take care of me,” said Lisa Harding, Peters’ mother.