HOUSTON (NNS, September 13, 2013) – Personnel from the Office of Naval Research and Sailors from Navy Recruiting District Houston instructed teachers from Houston Independent School District how to build underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles Sept. 7 at the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy.
SeaPerch is an innovative underwater robotics program that equips teachers and students with the resources they need to build an underwater ROV in an in-school or out-of-school setting.
SeaPerch is sponsored by ONR as part of the Navy’s push to get students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics programs.
Chris Hansen, a naval architect for the Naval Underwater Warfare Center and SeaPerch trainer, said the Navy is addressing the need to fill STEM related jobs.
“The Navy is having a hard time finding qualified personnel to fill the STEM needs within the Navy,” Hansen said. “The goal of SeaPerch is to introduce students to something they may have never known they were interested in. We are here to raise awareness and expose STEM opportunities.”
But before the students can be reached, the teachers must first be instructed on how the SeaPearch program works. Therefore, Hansen addressed the room full of teachers to give them an overview of the importance of the SeaPerch program and to quell any fears about the underwater ROV construction.
“SeaPerch is one of the few maritime robotics programs focused on middle and high school students,” said Hansen. “Here we train the teachers, not a lot of other programs do that. We teach you [teachers] how to build a SeaPerch and make you realize you can do this on your own. We will walk you through it; so you can then teach it.”
SeaPerch may seem like it would be an expensive project for schools, but Hansen assured the teachers that wasn’t the case.
“SeaPerch alleviates some of the cost of starting a STEM program in a school through grants,” Hansen said. “This program allows schools to get in on the ground floor. The equipment used to construct is nothing a person can’t easily get or kids aren’t exposed to every day.”
The underwater ROV is made up of PVC pipe, remotes, batteries, motors, electrical tape and zip ties.
Tiffany Silva, the STEM Partnership Liaison for Houston ISD, helped match the school district with the Navy to promote STEM to the district’s 29 schools.
“There is a district initiative focused on STEM because of the need in STEM professions,” Silva said. “Awareness is a big issue with our students. The students are kind of afraid, and that is why we are pushing the initiative with teachers and students district wide.”
For Houston ISD, the STEM initiative is about preparing its students for the future.
“They don’t realize they will use STEM throughout life,” said Silva. “We want our kids to be prepared and build relationships with businesses so they can get internships and externships. SeaPerch will teach them the importance of STEM through hands-on applications. That is why we partnered with the Navy.”
Senior Chief Navy Counselor Aaron Johnson said he is excited that the Navy has partnered with the Houston ISD and other districts in the region.
“We have gotten involved with middle and high schools in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Phoenix, with the goal of getting 20 schools in each city,” said Johnson. “A lot of these schools are in lower-income, diverse areas; SeaPerch allows us to expose these kids to something new, something they may have never been aware of.”
“This workshop gives teachers the opportunity to see the SeaPerch program and learn how it ties into STEM,” Johnson said. “With the Navy being one of the largest STEM employers, this program helps us keep our forces strong and diverse.”
The teachers in attendance got the benefit from learning from professionals so they can then pass that knowledge onto their students.
“This training has been very beneficial,” said Vince Hamilton, a robotics teacher at the Young Men’s College Preparatory Academy in Houston. “It allows us teachers to get hands on experience with what we will bring back to our students.”
“We will be able to bring back a great use of math and science,” Hamilton said. “It will be a fun way for students to use tools, build something, and compete all while using math and science throughout the building process.”
Hamilton said he sees the importance in peaking students’ interest in STEM-related programs.
“These kinds of programs are vital for the U.S.,” said Hamilton. “We need to get boys and girls involved into STEM programs.”
For more information on the SeaPerch program, visit http://www.seaperch.org/index.