Students prepare for underwater robotics competition

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It's a competition that involves dunking robots underwater. Dozens of south Mississippi students are preparing for the first Gulf Coast Regional SeaPerch Challenge. On Friday, some Jackson County students took their robots to a Biloxi pool to see if they can pass the water test.

"It's not going anywhere," one student said as placed his robot in the water.

It's a challenge that mixes the excitement of competition with science, technology, and engineering skills.

St. Martin gifted students launched their Remotely-Operated Underwater Vehicles at the Salvation Army's Kroc Center. Using a special kit, the students had to construct the frame of the ROV, wire the remote control device, and most importantly, make sure the motor is waterproof.

"It taught us how to engineer and how to build stuff and think out of the box," said sixth grader Avery Warrick.

"We had a lot of faults with propellers and other things and we had to keep putting it back on.  We had to use our teamwork to put it back together," said sixth grader Tim Downs.

Their robots will compete against 11 other teams in the Gulf Coast SeaPerch Challenge in Biloxi.

"They have to do deep water salvage. It's a recovery mission from the bottom," said St. Martin Gifted Teacher Shannon Wilson. "There's a lot that goes into maneuvering the robots."

The first objective is to retrieve a five-gallon bucket that's underwater and pull it to the side of the pool.  They have to complete the task in five minutes or less.

"Oh, it's so heavy," one student commented as she tried to lift the bucket.

Then, they have to guide the robot through a hula-hoop obstacle course. There's a three-minute time limit.

"I think it has been really fun and I think ours is the best," said sixth grader Tori Harwell.

It's a fun competition that could inspire the next generation of Naval architects and Naval, Marine and Ocean Engineers.

"Since we live on the coast, I feel like it's important for them to know different things about underwater deep sea recovery. Since we're so close to Ingalls, that's career opportunities they normally wouldn't get," said Wilson.

The Gulf Coast SeaPerch Challenge is Saturday, March 10, at the Biloxi Natatorium. The top two winning teams will advance to the national competition in Manassas, VA.

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