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13-Apr-2012

Contact: Peter Vietti
onrcsc@onr.navy.mil
703-588-2167
Office of Naval Research

Students' underwater robots face off in national competition

Challenge brings top teams together to compete with their SeaPerch remotely operated vehicles



Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of Naval research, and Vice Adm. David Architzel, commander, Naval air systems command, get a chance to try and guide SeaPerch remotely operated vehicles through an underwater obstacle course while visiting the Office of Naval Research-sponsored National SeaPerch Challenge at the Manassas Park Community Center in Manassas, Va. The SeaPerch program provides students with the opportunity to learn about robotics, engineering, science, and mathematics (STEM) while building the underwater remotely operated vehicle as part of a science and engineering technology curriculum. (US Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

ARLINGTON, Va.—With a national title on the line, student teams from across the country are competing with their underwater robots in the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-funded championship April 11-13 in Manassas Park, Va.

The 2012 National SeaPerch Challenge brings top teams from middle and high school together to compete with the underwater robots they've built as part of a curriculum designed to boost their skills and interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The SeaPerch program is an initiative under the Department of the Navy's STEM Coordination Office, which facilitates outreach efforts across the service. The chief of naval research, Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, presented awards to winning teams April 12.

"SeaPerch provides an affordable entry point for underwater robotics, and, from there, directional arrows to other science and engineering competitions and internships—it's an easy-to-follow 'yellow brick road' approach," said Kelly Cooper, program officer, ONR Sea Platforms and Weapons division. "The goal is to expand student awareness and encourage them to pursue STEM education and careers."

The competition challenges are designed to reflect Navy-relevant operations. This year, the 70 teams are competing in two events: an obstacle course and a salvage operation. Both take place in a community center indoor pool. For the obstacle course, teams must navigate through 24-inch rings—which may be oriented in any direction—surface, re-submerge and return through the course. The salvage operation involves five 5-gallon buckets inverted on the pool's bottom, which each team must float to the surface and then bring poolside.



Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of Naval research, talks with one of seventy participating teams from around the country during a poster session as part of the Office of Naval Research-sponsored National SeaPerch Challenge at the Manassas Park Community Center in Manassas, Va. The SeaPerch program provides students with the opportunity to learn about robotics, engineering, science, and mathematics (STEM) while building the underwater remotely operated vehicle as part of a science and engineering technology curriculum. (US Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

SeaPerch gives teachers and students the resources they need to build an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from a kit made up of low-cost, easily accessible parts, following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme. The objective is that students will build STEM, problem-solving and teamwork skills.

Click here to watch a short video about the SeaPerch program.

Since 2007, more than 42,000 students have participated in SeaPerch. The program is funded by ONR and managed by the AUVSI Foundation—the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

Cooper believes that SeaPerch is an educational equalizer. "SeaPerch really resonates with students who do better with hands-on learning," she said. "It also brings inner-city and magnet schools together to compete, while showing the inner-city students that their ROVs work just as well and that STEM careers are accessible and a real option for them."

Last year marked the first National SeaPerch Challenge, which was held in Philadelphia with 38 teams. The 2013 event will be May 18 in Indianapolis, with 100 teams expected to compete.

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About the Office of Naval Research

The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 30 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and more than 900 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,065 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.