High school-bound students construct underwater robots

Field test to be held at Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park on July 11

University of Hawaiʻi
Keolani Noa, (808) 728-1046
Program Coordinator
Cindy Knapman, (808) 956-7410
Communications Leader
Posted: Jul 7, 2008

For high school students enrolled in the UH Manoa GEAR UP Summer Academy, learning critical math and science skills has never been more fun.

This week, 9th graders entering Farrington, Nanakuli and Waianae High Schools in the fall will build their own underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) while at the same time learning critical partnership-building skills from undergraduate peer mentors from the Kapiolani Community College Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (KCC STEM) Program.

For the last two summers KCC STEM has been bringing this innovative underwater robotic technology to juniors and seniors enrolled in the National Science Foundation-sponsored Summer Bridge Program. Dr. John Rand, a KCC Math and Sciences Professor, introduced the ROV technology to the bridge program after participating in a training workshop offered by the University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program (UH Manoa Sea Grant) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sea Grant in February 2006. This summer marks the first year that the 9th grade students will have the opportunity to participate while also connecting with the undergraduate peer mentors, which helps them to make a successful transition into high school and, eventually, post-secondary education.

This partnership is ideal for the UH Manoa GEAR UP Summer Academy, which is a six-week program designed to boost student success in math and science and to increase the number of low-income students that attend college. It also presented a wonderful opportunity for the KCC STEM organizers to reach students at an even younger age and spark an interest in math and science by offering fun, hands-on activities. In total, 77 students will participate in this year‘s Sea Perch project.

The underwater robotic technology, termed Sea Perch, was developed by MIT Sea Grant and uses materials found at any local hardware store. The students can then attach plankton nets, underwater video cameras and/or other water quality monitoring devices to conduct scientific experiments in areas where scuba gear would normally be needed. Keolani Noa, KCC STEM Program Coordinator, noted "the students feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment when the Sea Perch works. The materials are found in hardware stores and are easy to relate to, and they learn intricate electrical skills, but most importantly they learn how to listen to each other and work collaboratively. This is invaluable."

Erwin Legaspi, UH Manoa GEAR UP Academic Support Specialist, also stressed the importance of this project to the students. "The Sea Perch project is a great vehicle to broaden students‘ academic perspectives, and expose them to the multitude of opportunities available to them within the STEM fields." Legaspi noted. "STEM subjects are often thought of as abstract and intimidating to students, but the robotic construction aspect of the program allows for a fun and engaging learning environment. In addition, the Sea Perch project combination of STEM subject matter and knowledge and technical mastery of tools and equipment give an exciting twist to student encounters with STEM curricula and those having no experience with the industrial arts or vocational trades."

News media are invited to join as the students field test the newly constructed ROVs at the Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park on Friday, July 11th from 8:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

UH Sea Grant facilitated this project in partnership with UH Manoa GEAR UP and its partners, IsisHawaii and the Institute for Astronomy (IFA), and the KCC STEM Program, MIT Sea Grant, and The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.

Media coverage is invited and encouraged.

Field testing of Sea Perch underwater robots
8:30 a.m. — 11:00 a.m.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park

For more information, visit: http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/SEAGRANT