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Students Design Swimming Robots at Sea Perch Summer Camp

The students who participated in the Sea Perch Summer Camp, organised by the Naval Surface Warfare Center and the National Defense Education Program discovered how interesting and exciting the subjects science, engineering and maths could be and designed the Sea Perch underwater robot, independently.

Emily Rawson, 13, drops her team's robot into the pool Friday during the science, technology, engineering and mathematics camp robot competition at North Point High School in Waldorf. Her team named their underwater retrieval device "URD the Nerd."

The camp was held at the North Point High School in Waldorf, last week. The camp’s director Tom Palathra said that the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) camp was intended to give the students hands-on experience.

The students were required to program the Sea Perch to recover the black box which was kept underwater. One of the participants, Rondrell Marshall said the designing of the robot was quite challenging as it involves movement in water not on land. Rondrell pointed out that this camp was different as they had to do all the work themselves, unlike the other camps where the robots were readily available and the campers just had to program them. Each of the teams was assigned a mentor for providing guidance. The students faced lot of issues while building robots, like ensuring each piece of the robot to be water proof, making sure the robot did only what it was programmed to do etc.

Rondrell’s team designed the Sea Perch with hooks on the bottom for grabbing the object it was looking for, while some others provided front extensions to lift the object. The teams practiced and tested their robots in large tanks which were set outside the cafeteria. During these trials the students checked for neutral buoyancy of their robots, where the top part is supposed to float making sure that they picked the objects successfully. Prior to giving a demo of their robots, the teams had to give a power point presentation of their designs. Some other projects in the camp involved the test of problem solving skills and Math skills.

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