Sixty students and teachers from Portsmouth schools gathered at a local high school earlier this month for the Sea Perch underwater robot competition organized by Old Dominion University's Lean Institute. Lean Institute Director Alok Verma, the Ray Ferrari Professor at ODU's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, organized the event. It consisted of two underwater robotics competitions that were part of a project called MarineTech.
During the spring semester, the students built Sea Perch robots with the help of their teachers. Nine teams participated in this particular competition, which was also conducted in June in Norfolk for students from other Hampton Roads cities and from central Virginia.
Each team had to pilot its robot through a "U" course, which included narrow channels and underwater barriers. After completing the obstacle course, the robots were required to catch a ball and drop it into a goal area.
Each team was judged on the time the course took, construction of the robot, teamwork and "scoring" a successful touchdown with the ball.
The event was funded by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).
ODU and Longwood University are collaborating on MarineTech, to integrate an innovated underwater robotics and marine technology curriculum into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses in the economicall disadvantaged southside, central and Eastern Virginia school divisions.
The project, designed by Verma, includes 40 math, science and technology education teachers in Grades 6 through 12.
"More than 1,200 students will derive benefits from the learning experience of the teachers," Verma said. "The project addresses the urgent need to enhance students' interest and performance in STEM courses, while fostering skills that are important prerequisites for STEM careers, particularly in marine engineering and technology.