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NEWS | April 6, 2020

Local STEM Students Compete in Annual Greater Philadelphia SeaPerch and SeaGlide Challenge

By Margaret Kenyon, NSWCPD Public Affairs NSWCPD

More than 50 local Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students went head-to-head during the 15th annual Greater Philadelphia SeaPerch and SeaGlide Challenge held at Temple University, March 6 and 7, 2020.

“My eyes were opened up,” said Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division Commanding Officer Capt. Dana Simon on his first time speaking at the event and participating in the awards ceremony. “STEM is such an important part of our education today … I am glad to see our renewed interest in it … This is what the Navy needs and what the country needs.”

NSWCPD’s STEM Program Manager Tristan Wolfe, who spearheaded the event, emphasized the importance of cultivating the future engineers.

“We need the next generation of STEM professionals to step up and help us fill the goals we want to achieve,” said Wolfe. “We are the number one navy in the world, and we want to stay that way!”

The middle and high school students were put through their paces during a series of events, which varied depending on if they were competing in the SeaPerch or SeaGlide category.

Those participating in the SeaPerch portion of the Challenge competed in three categories – vehicle performance, technical design report, and team presentation -- to give them a comprehensive experience in the engineering design process.

Vehicle performance consisted of two parts. First, the student-built Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) had to maneuver through an obstacle course set up in the Temple University pool. This year the inclusion of several “water cannons” added to the race excitement. Second, new to the 2020 competition was the “SeaPerch Ninja Warrior” course that was inspired by the popular television series, “American Ninja Warriors.” This race featured the top six teams with the fastest obstacle course time. For the technical design report, teams had to document how they implemented the engineering process during their design, build, and testing phase that took place over several months before the Challenge. Finally, during the presentation portion teams represented mock companies vying for the U.S. Navy’s business to meet a “recovery” mission’s needs.

Like the SeaPerch part of the Challenge, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles-AUV SeaGlides were also judged on their pool performance and a team presentation. In addition, the team also had to develop a White Paper, “a tool that is commonly used in science and engineering fields as a quick and efficient way to identify a challenge and evaluate solutions for overcoming that challenge,” according to the event’s program.

The SeaGlide competition also included a new portion this year called “Excellence in Circuitry and Programming,” which challenged teams to complete numerous Arduino-based challenges on the spot. (Arduino is a computing platform company, as well as the name of a specific type of microcontroller and a programming language.)

Although there were more than 17 high school and 17 middle school awards for SeaPerch and 11 for SeaGlide, a few schools wound up dominating the competition. On day one Danville Area Middle School walked away with five awards while on day two Pennsbury High School won four.

In addition, Roberto Clemente Middle School, with whom NSWCPD has been involved for several years, won the SeaPerch Ninja Award, which was inspired by the television show “American Ninja Warriors” and tested the team’s SeaPerch design and driver skills by accomplishing a series of challenges. Another standout was Central Middle School taking second place in the SeaGlide Vehicle Performance category as this was the first year in which middle schools were able to compete in the SeaGlide part of the challenge.

NSWCPD employs approximately 2,700 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel doing research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service logistics engineering for Navy ships. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.