IV > Robotics Team Wins National SeaPerch Competition
Indian Valley Middle School Robotics club was awarded the top overall middle school trophy at the National SeaPerch Challenge held in Manassas Park, Virginia during April 11th through April 13th. Over 60 middle school and high school student teams from across the nation competed at the competition, having earned the right by winning their local and regional SeaPerch Challenges. Each team designed and built an underwater robot from scratch that needed to maneuver successfully under its own power through an obstacle course and to perform an underwater salvage mission. The Indian Valley robotics team won 2nd place in the obstacle challenge, 2nd place in the underwater salvage mission, and 2nd place for their poster and oral presentation about their team’s design philosophy and construction challenges. The team’s overall score was tops in the nation, awarding them the coveted “Overall Winner” trophy in the Middle School division.
Indian Valley Middle School students first had to compete against four other teams of 8-10 students at Indian Valley’s school challenge held in the beginning of March. All 40 students in the IVMS robotics club learned important lessons of engineering process, buoyancy, propulsion, and teamwork over 50 hours of after school practices. The winning team then traveled to Drexel University on March 24, 2012 to compete in the Greater Philadelphia SeaPerch Regional challenge, performing with top honors in the vehicle performance competition. The team then prepared for the National competition by revising their presentation and improving their robot’s performance in the pool. An innovative design that the students designed and built for the ROV (remotely operated vehicle) was a motor mounted in the center of the robot that could be repositioned between challenges for optimal performance.
Students participated in some fundraising efforts during the school year to raise money for supplies and costs of travel to the competitions. Local businesses who partnered with the club were Hudock Moyer Wealth Services, Hayes Inc, WBI Group, Harleysville Books, Eastern Diversified Services, Wisler Pearstine, and Jon Evans' Sons. The club is coached by Marty Gephart, Chief Information Officer at Hayes Inc located in Lansdale, and Andrew Johnson, mathematics teacher at the school. In addition, Doug and Sharon Jones served as parent volunteers, assisting the students during the after school meetings and the competitions.
The National SeaPerch Challenge is the fulfillment of the US Navy’s vision to showcase future STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) talent on the national stage. The SeaPerch program introduces middle and high school students to STEM through underwater robotics, exposing them to exciting, hands-on and mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, while fostering self-confidence and enhancing life skills.
Students interested in pursuing careers in STEM must begin the process early in school in order to be competitive for admission to a college engineering program. Middle school is the perfect time to introduce activities that pique student interest and build on STEM learning. Recent reports have identified troublesome science and math achievement gaps and signaled the need for renewed efforts to cultivate a competitive 21st century workforce.
In a speech from 2011, President Barack Obama announced, "Today, only 14 percent of all undergraduate students enroll in what we call the STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering, and math. We can do better than that. We must do better than that. If we're going to make sure the good jobs of tomorrow stay in America, we need to make sure all our companies have a steady stream of skilled workers."
This critical shortage of qualified students choosing an engineering career path can only be alleviated by introducing them to engaging STEM activities sooner than later. The robotics club at Indian Valley Middle School has aimed at providing students an opportunity for hands-on learning as well as showing them how science, technology, and math are used in a variety of careers.