Chas. Co. Students Compete in Underwater State Robotics Challenge - Southern Maryland Headline News

Chas. Co. Students Compete in Underwater State Robotics Challenge

LA PLATA, Md. (May 5, 2011) — Two teams from Piccowaxen Middle School advance to the first National SeaPerch Challenge on May 23-25 after competing at the Maryland Regional SeaPerch Challenge on April 30. More than 95 teams from Maryland middle schools participated in the event, in which students competed in challenges using operational remote-controlled underwater robots they constructed.

The two-member “Aquanauts” team of Piccowaxen eighth graders Travis Earnshaw and Austin Boarman, advance to the nationals after qualifying in the final simulated oil spill challenge at the state event. The “CPUs” team of Matthew Fan and Jeffrey Blake, seventh graders at Piccowaxen, also advance to the national level after earning the top score in the design and teamwork category. The team sponsor is Teresa Jones, gifted education teacher at Piccowaxen.

The preliminary challenges require teams to test their robots on speed and maneuverability. Each team must demonstrate the speed of their robot by controlling it across the width of a tow tank twice. Teams also had to maneuver their robots through a slalom course. The top nine teams advanced to the final competition in which students used their robots to cap a simulated oil spill. Student teams were also selected through interviews to compete in the design and teamwork, and aesthetics and engineering categories.

In addition to the team from Piccowaxen, the “Three Stooges” team from Theodore G. Davis Middle School competed in the final oil spill challenge and earned fourth place. Team members are eighth graders Ryan Moore, Kyle McMillen and Warren Leggett III. Team sponsors are Ervin Gilchrist and Jared Fagan, staff members at Davis. Student teams were also selected through interviews to compete in the design and teamwork, and aesthetics and engineering categories.

Additionally, four other teams from Piccowaxen and Davis competed at the state event.

Drexel University in Philadelphia hosts the National SeaPerch Challenge and middle and high school teams nationwide will compete in two vehicle performance competitions – an underwater obstacle course and a simulated sea-floor oil spill similar to the 2010 Gulf disaster.

SeaPerch is an underwater robotics program that trains teachers to teach their students how to build an underwater remotely operated vehicle. Students build the vehicle from a kit and follow curriculum that focuses on engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme. Charles County Public Schools partnered with The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers this school year to pilot the SeaPerch program at Davis and Piccowaxen.

As part of the pilot program, students worked with assigned education partners from the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Division – Kenny Semunick and Tom Palathra – to learn about naval and marine engineering, robotics and other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) based concepts. Members of the school communities also volunteered to assist the students with the program and include John Gardner, Alton Jones and Monique Wilson, coordinator of STEM education for Charles County Public Schools.

The state event was held at and hosted by the United States Naval Academy and the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division. Sponsors included the National Defense Education Program, Office of Naval Research and The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. For more information on the national challenge, visit

Source: Charles County Public Schools

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