2010-05-13 / Local & State

PA Kids Build Underwater Robots

By Wendy Zook MARTINSBURG, Pa.
(AP) – On a recent Friday afternoon, a small group of proud parents and interested seniors gathered at Homewood at Martinsburg’s swimming pool as elementary students demonstrated months of hard work in science, robotics and engineering.

Traci Shoemaker’s thirdgraders from Martinsburg Elementary School, as part of Spring Cove’s Project CARE and a collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sea Grant program, created remotely operated underwater vehicles, called SeaPerches, that could be used to test water quality.

The students created the foot-long underwater robots over several months using pipe cutters, power drills and items such as wires, PVC pipe, wax and tape with the help of Central High School advanced placement Biology students.

It was a learning experience for Shoemaker as well, who received training from midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy.

“I had to learn all this myself,’’ Shoemaker told the audience.

A seventh-grade enrichment class built the underwater vehicles with the help of Lafayette College and the Naval Academy.

Students visited the academy in December to see reallife remotely operated vehicles being used. College students use similar ones in New Zealand as part of a study abroad experience.

“We study these same topics,’’ Shoemaker said. “This was sort of a connecting activity in the beginning.’’

The students communicated with each other via Skype and other Internet resources.

“The whole purpose is to get the kids excited about science, robotics and engineering,’’ Shoemaker said.

Emma Smith and Emily Garver, both 8, said melting the wax was a fun part of the process, as was testing the robots in the water.

“I liked testing it,’’ Emily said. “I liked how we went to Maryland (to the Naval Academy) and we got to test it in the water.’’

Emma said she likes science, especially when it has to do with water.

“You have to work a lot to get it to work, but when you get it to work, it’s a lot of fun,’’ Emma said.

About 45 Spring Cove students worked on the SeaPerch project, which culminated in showing-off of their hard work at the retirement center’s aquatics center. In small groups, students leaned over the pool’s edge, making their small robots move in all directions as well as sink below the water’s surface.

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