Conway SeaPerch

Aidan Clement, Chandler Thorne and Sarah Shackford, of Conway, showed off their underwater robot during the SeaPerch regional competition at UNH in Durham on Friday.

DURHAM — There were 47 middle and high school teams hoping to qualify for the national SeaPerch competition at the University of New Hampshire on Friday.

The underwater robotics program requires students to build a remotely operated vehicle that can compete in an obstacle course speed-run and a rescue mission.

“It’s not as easy as it sounds,” sixth-grader Chandler Thorne, of Conway, said.

Teammate, 12-year-old Sarah Shackford, agreed. She said preparing for the competition has taught her a lot about building and controlling robots this year.

“Personally, I didn’t know anything. Then I tried to do it and I said, ‘Whoa, this is really fun,’” Shackford said.


Mike Salafia and Joshua Ferrill, members of the Gloucester Sea Cadets, competed in the SeaPerch regional competition at UNH in Durham on Friday.

Ed Cormier is Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s engineering recruiter and STEM outreach coordinator. He said SeaPerch reaches students at a critical age when they are deciding what career path they will choose.

“We’re building the next generation of Shipyard workers,” Cormier said.

In addition to an obstacle course speed-run and a rescue mission, students also participated in a poster presentation. The four teams from Andover High School in Massachusetts were preparing for that Friday afternoon.

They talked about some of the challenges they faced during the morning rounds of competition.

“The challenge we really faced is one of the propellers came off the motor,” Aabith Arasu said of his robot.

Dan Donovan, who teaches physics and is the team’s coach, said the students were able to fix the problem on the spot.

“They’ve been preparing intensely for the last couple of months,” Donovan said.

One of the Andover teams, along with a team from Austin Preparatory School in Reading, Mass., qualified for the national competition at the University of Maryland June 1 and 2.

For more information about the SeaPerch program, visit