News Archive News Archive: College of Engineering to host National 2018 SeaPerch Challenge to promote STEM education
College of Engineering to host National 2018 SeaPerch Challenge to promote STEM education

International robotics competition designed to encourage STEM careers

Viewing SeaPerch Challenge at pool
Spectators watch the exciting underwater robotics competition during the 2015 SeaPerch Challenge previously hosted at UMass Dartmouth.

Nearly 200 teams of middle and high school students will arrive at UMass Dartmouth during the weekend of June 1- 3 to participate in an underwater robotics competition while exploring related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts.

Teams of sixth to twelfth graders will represent 32 states, the Cayman Islands, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Nearly 1,000 students and mentors will be visiting the UMass Dartmouth campus for the challenge, previously hosted here in 2015.

Exciting competition teaches STEM concepts

The SeaPerch program provides students with the opportunity to learn about STEM concepts while building underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROV) to complete an obstacle course and perform a designated mission. Throughout the challenge, students learn engineering concepts, problem solving, teamwork, and technical applications.

“We are excited to host the 2018 National SeaPerch competition at UMass Dartmouth,” said Interim Acting Dean Ramprasad Balasubramanian. “This provides an opportunity for hundreds of students to visit a Tier 1 national research university that is committed to growing STEM opportunities for the next generation of students.

“The College of Engineering has several initiatives underway to create greater engagement with middle- and high-school students interested in STEM disciplines,” he added. “We are committed to supporting these students so they go on to having successful careers in STEM fields.”

Two-day event features a variety of fun engineering activities

SeaPerch is sponsored by Raytheon, Naval Sea Systems Command, Autodesk, and Mathworks.

International teams will arrive on Thursday, May 31, while the U.S. teams arrive the next day. Pool competitions begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 2, at the Tripp Athletic Center Pool and will continue through Sunday, June 3.

Throughout the day, a STEM Expo and Team Challenges will be held at the Claire T. Carney Library Living Room and directed by volunteers and students from the College of Engineering. When they are not competing, students can work as a team on one of six challenge activities or team building stations.

Challenge teams will build on Saturday using a prepared kit and test their build on Sunday. Challenges range from building a toothpick bridge that will be tested with varying amounts of weight to creating water rockets or helicopters powered by a rubber band.

Team building stations offer the students an opportunity to explore a variety of engineering challenges. Students can work individually, as a team, or with students from other teams. One of the activities requires determining the height of the UMass Dartmouth campanile.

Introduced for the first time this year, Engineering Notebook Presentations will be held during the competition. These presentations provide an opportunity for students to share their learning innovations and science understanding. Teams use the notebook to document the development and modification of their SeaPerch vehicles with hand sketches, photos, hand-written notes, graphs and charts, and computer-aided design drawings.

SeaPerch supports the development of STEM careers

“The goal of our program is to engage them in STEM as a metadiscipline, a way of thinking that helps them to solve the problems of tomorrow,” said Krista Gauthier, STEM programs director for RoboNation. “We always ask our students, not what do you want to be, but rather, what problem do you want to solve?”

“STEM touches every aspect of our lives, from the roads and bridges we travel to the food we eat to the clothing we wear,” said Cheryl Hedeen, a member of the SeaPerch team.

According to Hedeen, between 2017 and 2027, the number of STEM jobs will grow 13 percent, compared to 9 percent for non-STEM jobs. Positions in computers, engineering, and advanced manufacturing are leading the way. Workers with STEM-related degrees earn an average or 26 percent more than workers without a STEM-related degree.

Her advice to the students attending the event also applies to college-level studies. “To prepare for STEM degrees and careers, take the most advanced math and science courses your school offers. Become competent in 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, speaking and writing effectively, collaboration, and teamwork. Colleges and employers will be looking for applicants with the right coursework as well as relevant work experience gained through internships, job shadows, or summer jobs.”