Va. - Student-competitors from Dahlgren School displayed another impressive
performance at the regional SeaPerch competition April 23 at the University of
Mary Washington (UMW), with two of the school's four teams selected to advance
to the national competition at Louisiana State University, May 20-21.
School has participated in the SeaPerch program for three years, with at least
one team advancing to nationals each year.
is a Naval Sea Systems Command funded science, technology, engineering and
mathematics (STEM) outreach that helps young people learn about those subjects
- along with several intangible life skills - by building and competing with
underwater remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs).
more, the program is fun, fascinating, and socially relevant to students
engaged with ROVs around the pool with their parents, teachers, and Naval
Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) scientist and engineer
students maneuvered their SeaPerch through a series of obstacles and tasks at
more, the teams took on perhaps an even more intimidating prospect: brief a
panel of judges on the SeaPerch vehicles they designed and built, and respond
to panel member questions about their ROV designs.
have to make sure you find this little quiet place and that you stay focused on
your perch and your partner," said Toni, eighth grade, sharing some of the
wisdom she learned during the competition about dealing with stress.
School teammates Toni and Gary, along with Alexander and Jerod, comprised two
of the four teams from across the region in total that advanced from regionals
to the national competition.
the regional competitions, the Dahlgren School competitors took time to discuss
what they learned about robotics, design and engineering, and teamwork. Here,
too, fun was also an essential part of the equation.
competition was big and exciting," said Alexander. "It was fun
because it was multiple teams from multiple schools trying to compete against
and his partner, Jerod, were not particularly great friends when they were
first paired together as a SeaPerch team. After several weeks of designing,
testing and improving their ROV, however, they had learned a thing or two about
teamwork. "Now I think we've got a good bond and we can work well together
to figure problems out," Jerod said.
course, there is no extra "T" in STEM to denote the teamwork required
for SeaPerch, but it is a consistent theme among the competitors and a great
example of the life skills the program fosters.
Doyle, science teacher, was not aware that Alexander and Jerod didn't always
see eye-to-eye when the groups were assembled, but was impressed by the
maturity shown by both as they worked together to achieve a common goal.
"No one complained," she said. "They just opened [the SeaPerch
kit] box and got started. That says a lot about them."
went on to be an especially critical component of Alexander's and Jerod's
success: one of their two motors malfunctioned as they negotiated their final
obstacle. Through good communication, they figured out a way to use forward and
reverse, in quick succession, to move their SeaPerch the rest of the way for an
improvised solution that would impressive any submariner or surface warfare
teamwork did not just exist internally within each team, but externally-among
all the Dahlgren School teams-as well. To prepare for the presentations, the
teams took turns presenting their projects and were "graded" by their
to peers was harder than presenting to the judges, because there were 20 sets
of eyes in the room," said Toni.
teams that are advancing are incorporating lessons learned at regionals to
Toni and I were going through the ring objective, we noticed our right motor
going really slow; it seemed like it was wearing down," said Gary.
"After we took it out of the pool, we realized that if we did make it to
nationals-we didn't know it at the time-we said we need to get a new motor. At
regionals we were already prepping for what we needed to change."
that professional outlook sounds less like a science project and more like a
real-life engineering project, it is by design. The goal of SeaPerch is in-part
to highlight how classroom subjects come together in the real world, whether
the participant decides to pursue a STEM career or not.
now I have no clue what I want to be when I grow up-maybe designing houses or
an architect or something like that-but after SeaPerch, it makes me want to be
something that is maybe more computer-related, with more science," said
that kind of impact on the lives of young people is not just a result of the
SeaPerch program, but also the community's support for the students at Dahlgren
School. The students, Doyle, and Dahlgren School Principal Dr. Jeff Duncan
thanked the many people behind the scenes that played a role in Dahlgren
School's impressive showing at regionals, including but not limited to John
Wright, mentor and senior engineer at NSWCDD and Liz Kwasniak, manager of the
Dahlgren Aquatics Center, where the students practiced.
Duncan said he was proud of all of the competitors and underscored the
importance of the program. "We're excited because this is our third year
participating, and we continue to find out these amazing things that the
students learn," he said.
provides students with the opportunity to learn about robotics, engineering,
science and mathematics while building an underwater remotely operated vehicle
as part of a science and engineering curriculum. Throughout the project,
students learn engineering concepts, problem-solving techniques, teamwork and
technical applications, all culminating in an end-of-the-term design
competition. This program teaches students how to build an underwater robot,
build a propulsion system, develop a controller, and investigate weight and