Fifty teams compete in SeaPerch Regional at UNHBy KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent
April 15. 2018 10:00PM
DURHAM — Fifty teams battled it out at the Swasey Pool during this year’s Seacoast SeaPerch Regional Competition held Friday at the University of New Hampshire Field House.
Participants built an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle from low-cost, easily accessible materials following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine theme.
This year’s challenge included an obstacle course to test the ROV’s speed and maneuverability, the Tower Challenge to test the ROV’s ability to move and maneuver objects from one platform to another and a poster competition.
Chris Lane, a science teacher at Rundlett Middle School in Concord, said his team members worked after school on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday making final preparations.
Students Casey Ames and Brian Dodson were working on their ROV together Friday morning. Ames was concerned that the ROV was too buoyant for the challenges.
Dodson explained what made their ROV special.
“It’s the attachment that we used to be able to fold up the arm for a full range of motion,” Dodson said.
Landon St. Peter, Calvin Nelson, Ben Osterlin and Bryce Carter were some of the teens representing Ellsworth High School in Maine.
Carter described controlling the ROV during the first round of competition.
“My hands were shaking a lot. It was really exciting,” Carter said.
The teens are interested in engineering and said they hope to earn scholarships to college someday.
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, was there to support the program.
“It’s important for us to get young people excited about STEM subjects. It’s important to us, and it’s important to our national security,” Shaheen said.
Tara Hicks Johnson, outreach specialist for the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at UNH, said in a perfect world competing students would study at the college after high school and land a job at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, when they graduate.
“Through this, they can see what the future is and what it can be,” Johnson said.
The Shipyard’s Commander David Hunt said they have 300 volunteers who target about 18,000 students in New Hampshire and Maine with their outreach programming.
Hunt said the SeaPerch underwater robotics program is good for students because they don’t have to have a lot of technical knowledge to get something out of the experience.
“They’re living it. They’re designing it,” Hunt said.
The top two teams will move on to the 2018 International SeaPerch Challenge at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth scheduled for June 1 to 3.
Johnson said Friday afternoon that Austin Preparatory School in Reading, Mass., and Andover High School in Andover, Mass., were named the top two teams.