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Underwater ROVs Shine At SeaPerch Challenge
by Warren Duffie Jr., Office of Naval Research
June 17, 2022

More than 130 teams of elementary, middle and high school students from around the world competed at the annual International SeaPerch Challenge on June 4, 2022 at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored competition brought together students to showcase the underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) they built as part of a curriculum designed to boost their skills and interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Participants operate their remotely operated vehicle (ROV) through an underwater course during the annual International SeaPerch Challenge on June 4, 2022 at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland. The Office of Naval Research-sponsored competition brought together students to showcase the ROVs they built as part of a curriculum designed to boost their skills and interest in science, technology, engineering and math. (U.S. Navy photo by Michael Walls)
Participants operate their remotely operated vehicle (ROV) through an underwater course during the annual International SeaPerch Challenge on June 4, 2022 at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland. The Office of Naval Research-sponsored competition brought together students to showcase the ROVs they built as part of a curriculum designed to boost their skills and interest in science, technology, engineering and math. (U.S. Navy photo by Michael Walls)

The SeaPerch program is an initiative within the Naval STEM Coordination Office, which is located at ONR and coordinates investments in STEM education, outreach and workforce initiatives across the Department of the Navy.

Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Lorin Selby gave welcoming remarks at the event:

“ONR has been involved with SeaPerch pretty much from the beginning, so we’ve got a long, proud history of supporting many, many students like yourselves over the years,” he said. “In the world we live in today, we have a lot of very complex problems and to solve those problems, we’ve got to be able to put together teams of diverse individuals who can come at things from different angles and work together to solve problems.

“You’ve shown that by getting to this point of the competition,” Selby continued. “If you can take the skills that got you here to your future endeavors in school, in college, in work, then you will succeed and help this nation succeed.”

SeaPerch — which is administered by RoboNation — gives teachers and students the resources they need to build ROVs from kits made up of low-cost, easily accessible parts, following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme. The objective is that students will build STEM, problem-solving and teamwork skills.

During this year’s International SeaPerch Challenge, participants showed off their engineering prowess through technical papers and presentations. Then they ran their ROVs through an underwater obstacle course in which the vehicles navigated through 24-inch rings — oriented in multiple directions — before surfacing, re-submerging and returning through the course.

Afterward, competitors operated their ROVs through an underwater mission course with a space training theme. The course simulated the tasks and environment that an ROV might encounter while assisting astronauts on an extravehicular activity outside the International Space Station. Mission duties included rotating a latch, disconnecting a battery and replacing it with a new one, and transporting tools.

“What better way to inspire students and encourage them to pursue STEM education and careers than with an underwater robotics competition?” said Sandy Landsberg, who is both the Naval STEM Coordination Office executive and a division director in ONR’s Information, Cyber and Spectrum Superiority Department. “I’ve been incredibly amazed at the different designs, the students’ understanding of their designs and the science and technology concepts out there.”

RoboNation estimates that over 250,000 students engage in the program annually through grassroots programs, competitions and training activities. Since 2011, SeaPerch has expanded to reach students in over 35 countries and all 50 U.S. states.

Additionally, the number of locally hosted regional competitions has grown to over 100 qualifier events where teams earn a spot at the International SeaPerch Challenge.

2022 SeaPerch Challenge Winning Teams | Learn more about SeaPerch

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