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Sea Perch Competition Aims to Open High Schoolers' Eyes to Math and Science

Sixty students and teachers from Portsmouth schools gathered at a local high school on Saturday, April 9 for Sea Perch, an underwater robot competition organized by Old Dominion University's Lean Institute.

Lean Institute director Alok Verma, Ray Ferrari Professor at ODU, organized the event, which consisted of two underwater robotics competitions, under a project called MarineTech.

During the spring semester, the students built the Sea Perch robot with the help of their teachers. Nine teams participated in this particular competition, which was also conducted in June in Norfolk, for Hampton Roads and central Virginia students.

Each team had to take their robot through a "U" course, which included narrow channels and underwater barriers. After navigating through the obstacle course, the students were required to catch a ball and drop it into a goal area.

Each team was judged on the time the course took, construction of the robot, teamwork and "scoring" a successful touchdown with the ball.

The event was funded by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

ODU and Longwood University are collaborating on MarineTech, to integrate an innovated underwater robotics and marine technology curriculum into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses in the economicall disadvantaged southside, central and Eastern Virginia school divisions.

The project, designed by Verma, includes 40 math, science and technology education teachers in Grades 6 through 12.

"More than 1,200 students will derive benefits from the learning experience of the teachers," Verma said. "The project addresses the urgent need to enhance students' interest and performance in STEM courses, while fostering skills that are important prerequisites for STEM careers, particularly in marine engineering and technology."

This article was posted on: April 11, 2011

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