USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog

Wet ‘n’ Wild Fun with SeaPerch

Thanks to one of our sponsors, Office of Naval Research, for getting the word out about the USA Science and Engineering Festival and coming to the festival! It sounds like a fun exhibit that you will have. See the full article here.

By Susan Nelson
Office of Naval Research / Society of Naval Architects & Marine Engineers

Some people find it amazing that PVC pipes and joints, wire, wax, film canisters, polyethylene mesh, football-shaped foam, a couple of plastic propellers, and some small motors and switches can become an underwater robot that you can drive with a handheld control box.

I was pretty amazed when I saw my first SeaPerch diving to the bottom of a pool and voyaging through an obstacle course in six feet of water. It was a SeaPerch Challenge, and the kids at the controls were middle school and high school students who had built the kits in school. The Challenge at the end of the school year let them show their skills in a district-wide competition.

It was really an exciting day for the kids and for me. I couldn’t wait to go out and talk about SeaPerch. It’s now in schools in more than 30 states. About 18,000 kids have built a SeaPerch, and every day a few more are discovering science and engineering concepts by means of this device, only about the size of a toaster.

Maybe it’s because I’m not too technical that I love introducing people to SeaPerch. It helps kids learn about underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and robotics, and it helps them explore buoyancy, marine environments, water sampling, depth measurement, and concepts like vectors and attenuation of light.

Building a SeaPerch ROV teaches basic skills in ship and submarine design. (Photo: SeaPerch.org)

Building a SeaPerch ROV teaches basic skills in ship and submarine design. (Photo: SeaPerch.org)

At the USA Science and Engineering Festival Expo on October 23 and 24 at the Smithsonian Mall, kids can come by the SeaPerch booth to drive their own underwater robot. They can race it against another or just work the thrusters and get the hang of making it dive and surface or move stealthily through the water. In our pool we’ll have SeaPerches built by middle school and high school students. And they are in many ways similar to the ROVs that work in the oceans around the world.

By building SeaPerches, some kids find they have an interest in circuits and switches and electric motors. If so, this is a cool way to explore design and engineering. Some find they’re interested in building and testing and figuring out what needs to be tweaked. By the way, a lot of kids who really get turned on to science when building SeaPerches are girls. SeaPerch is a great hands-on learning opportunity. Some SeaPerch builders in school today will someday become naval architects and ocean engineers. In fact, the National Defense Education Program supports SeaPerch as a way of seeking the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and math professionals to help with national security and keeping the United States competitive.

Hope to see you in Washington on the Mall. I’ll be there with SeaPerch.