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NEWS | April 15, 2014

Captains Praise Four Navy-Mentored STEM Students Slated to Compete at SeaPerch National Competition

By NSWC Dahlgren Division Corporate Communications Division

DAHLGREN, Va. -- Four Dahlgren School students believe their plans to "courageously, calmly and coolly" maneuver their remotely operated vehicle (ROV) through underwater obstacles will succeed at the National SeaPerch competition, May 17.

Two Navy captains believe the students have already succeeded.

The students' teachers, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) scientists and engineer mentors feel the same way.

Capt. Peter Nette, Naval Support Facility Dahlgren commanding officer, and Capt. Brian Durant, NSWCDD commander, praised the students for their Regional SeaPerch accomplishments at an April 10 event held in their honor at the DoD Education Activity Dahlgren School.

"It was great to see our own students at Dahlgren School excel in the SeaPerch regionals," said Nette. "They've made their community very proud, and I wish them the best of luck as they advance to the national stage."

Durant commended the two Dahlgren School teams for their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) innovation and teamwork that won them the honor as the top two teams selected from 18 competing Virginia student teams at the second annual Sea Perch Regional Competition held recently at the University of Mary Washington.

The winning team names - B2S and 7Cs - reflect the students' attitude as they faced the technical challenges of Sea Perch.

B2S means "Believe to Succeed."

7Cs is also known as "Cooperation, Communication, Creativity, Courageous, Calm, Cool, and Collected."

"SeaPerch is a great learning opportunity that pushes your brain to think more about a fix for any problem you may have," explained Libbie Wells, from B2S. "Teamwork was a bigger part than we thought. The write-ups were valuable and helped with explaining things to the judges."

Student teams from Colonial Beach High School, King George Middle School, and middle schools from Orange County, Locust Grove and Prospect Heights competed for the fastest time. They navigated ROVs to move small hoops from a frame to an underwater storage area in the deep-water end of the pool.

"When I first walked in (to the SeaPerch Regional Competition), there was a kind of buzz that made me feel like there were endless opportunities surrounding me," said Jade Rattanaay, a 7Cs member and teammate of Melanie Brown. "I learned during the interview that good notes are important. They really helped me to answer some of the questions."

Judges chose winners based on the most hoops moved in the shortest time, fastest speed through an underwater obstacle course, and the best verbal presentations.

"When we got the medals, everything was worth it: the blood, sweat, and some tears were also worth it," said Caroline Amos, a B2S team member. "The SeaPerch Program brought us together. By far, the SeaPerch Program was the hardest thing I have done."

Naval Sea Systems Command adapted the innovative underwater robotics program as an inquiry-based learning tool that trains teachers to teach their students how to build an underwater ROV inside or outside the classroom. The program, developed by the Office of Naval Research, allows teachers to emphasize the importance of STEM subjects in school and in the working world.

"SeaPerch was introduced to me as an educational program designed to teach and reinforce STEM concepts through hands on challenges and STEM curriculum," said Dahlgren School science teacher Ann Doyle. "The SeaPerch journey is everything they described and more. Team work and problem solving were extremely important lessons to my students and are the foundation of each step of the journey."

Building a SeaPerch ROV teaches basic skills in ship and submarine design and encourages students to explore naval architecture and marine and ocean engineering concepts through problem-based learning. It also teaches basic science and engineering concepts, tool safety and technical procedures.

"Programs like SeaPerch are very important to the nation because they expose our young people to some of the exciting applications of STEM," said Nette. "We want them to take the experience of SeaPerch through high school and college and hopefully, through employment as young scientists and engineers. We always hear that the U.S. is lagging in math, science and engineering. Programs like SeaPerch are turning that around, to our benefit in the future."

Students, teachers and volunteers spent 10 to 20 hours of classroom time building the ROVs and learning about the science and engineering involved in their development and use.

The competition is the end point for a hands-on STEM program that students participated in throughout the school year.

The students' enthusiasm builds as they construct ROVs from a kit comprised of low-cost, easily accessible parts, following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme.

"The program was well researched with excellent and effective technical training for teachers and mentors and supported by a website full of training modules that were extremely helpful," said Doyle. "Another reason this program is so successful is that the steps involved closely follow the SeaPerch mission. Part of the mission includes teaching students that working in a STEM field can be interesting and fun. Through all of the hands-on challenges, my students definitely developed an appreciation for the possibilities open to them in a STEM career."