Gulf Coast Contenders win 2014 National SeaPerch Challenge

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - There's a group of home school students, who spent the past five months and more than 2,000 man hours preparing for the 2014 National Sea Perch Challenge in Hattiesburg.

This weekend, all that time and preparation for the underwater robotics competition, paid off. The Gulf Coast Contenders high school team came home as the 2014 National SeaPerch champions.

Fresh back from a trip to Hattiesburg for the National SeaPerch Challenge the home school team, called the Gulf Coast Contenders, are still beaming after their big win.

"It feels amazing. It feels really good. It feels like all the hard work we put into it really paid off. It shows that when you work hard it pays off," said Hayden Leblanc said Gulf Coast Contenders member.

The Gulf Coast Contenders' middle school team took home second place in their division. And the high school team won the Overall National Challenge.

"I told them this year we were going for a national championship and I think they looked at me like I was insane," said Head Coach Mark Livingston.

Livingston says this underwater robotics competition teaches engineering, math, science and technology, as well as, public speaking.

"We had a part in there where we had to talk about our different designs and stuff on in front of a couple of judges," said Matthew Tolin said Gulf Coast Contenders member.

Livingston says his teams spent a lot of time learning how to quickly maneuver through the aquatic challenges called the heist and the obstacle course.

"They had to open a gate, which is like a shipboard hatch and then get on into the ship and get the boxes and bring them back kind of simulation and they have an obstacle course that they get in every year," said Livingston.

Though the next competition isn't until next year the teams are already thinking about ways to help each other improve and win even more challenges.

The middle school team took second place in the obstacle course and they came in 9th place in the heist. Livingston says the items used to build the underwater robot could be found at just about any hardware store like the PVC pipe and cable.

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