SeaPerch: A Precautionary Measure in Education and Competition

Jake Tapley

Saturday a conglomeration of primary and secondary-school students participated in an underwater robotics competition at Mt. Vernon Jr. High School.

Schools and organizations all across southern Indiana produced a  team for the event, that hoped it’s robot would sink the competition. 

The competition is known as The SeaPerch Challenge, and this was the second annual regional competition held locally. Last year the event was held at USI, in the Physical Activity Center’s pool.

But because of the bigger turn out, they had to relocate, said Allison Grabert, co-director of the event and interim director at the Southwestern Indiana Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (SWISTEM) Resource Center. Located here on campus, SWISTEM is all about educating young people in the aforementioned areas, starting with kids as young as kindergarten and ending with collegiate scholars on the verge of becoming engineers.

“For me, seeing kids actually show interest in science and engineering is one of the most rewarding things about the event,” Grabert said.

One of the judges of the event and USI volunteer, Donald Phelps, expressed similar feelings about the SeaPerch Challenge. Phelps is a part of the USI Engineering Program (in association with SWISTEM) and The President of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Phelps said he liked seeing the kids come out and participate while having fun. 

“It is going to be important that we guide kids to careers in technology,” Phelps said.

This is what SeaPerch, in part, seeks to do for the students that come out to compete. “Failure To Launch,” a Southern Indiana Career and Technical Center team composed of three juniors from North High School, was one of the sixty-seven teams that came to compete Saturday morning.

They had to do a lot more waiting than actually competing, but the amount of work they put into their robot and the project in general more than makes up for any ‘downtime’ they had, said Jeremy Moore, a junior at North and primary operator of the hydro navigational device. The team experienced some problems with steering, said teammate Zach Dugan.

“But it did better than I thought it would,” Dugan said. 

“And the best news of all is that the event doubled as an extra credit assignment in their engineering class,” Moore said.