For students entering grades seven through nine in the Lower Kuskokwim School District, a special program has opened up called SeaPerch, geared toward teaching a variety of skills executed under water.
The SeaPerch program looks to teach the young Alaskan students not only basic technical skills and engineering concepts, but also some slightly more nebulous topics like problem solving and teamwork.
The ultimate goal of the camp, which runs one week and segmented into one boys' program and one girls', was to build what's called an SROV, or a Submersible Remotely Operated Vehicle. Using a readily-available kit, students built and subsequently tested their SROV units in around a week.
The SROVs, in turn, offered waterproofing via wax seals and included both lights and propellers under the youthful operators' control.
For their part, students expressed their enjoyment with the program, as well as having come away learning several basic engineering concepts – such as including like operating a pipe cutter and a soldering iron – that they might not have previously learned without the program.
The program also offered some special evening programs, including a trip to a flight school to give kids access to flight simulators and some insight on careers in aviation – a vital sector of the Alaskan economy.
The initiative was reportedly something of a success, with 25 boys and 25 girls both set to attend. The science didn't stop when the robots were finished, either; projects ranged from gathering samples from the floor of various bodies of water, to capturing plankton samples in a net.
Some of the teachers are actually looking to ramp up the program further by adding cameras to the robots. The students, meanwhile, expressed interest in building an underwater search and rescue robot that can operate in extreme temperatures to look for bodies underwater, a hazard that takes new life in the Alaskan winter.
It's pretty impressive to see a program like this in operation, and to see young students getting interested in math, science and engineering – programs that are often understaffed. It's students like these from Lower Kuskokwim who will be at forefront of the charge to a more informed and advanced global community.
Edited by Braden Becker