Building Underwater Robots – JLM Innovative Teaching Grant

Sea Perch STEM Project Reflection

Sea Perch is an innovative underwater robotics program that teaches teachers and students to build an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) in both a classroom and out-of-school setting. Students build the ROV from a kit comprised of low-cost, easily accessible parts, following a curriculum that teaches science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with a marine engineering theme. Throughout the project, students learn engineering concepts, problem solving, and teamwork design skills. They are exposed to all the exciting careers that are possible in naval architecture and marine/ocean engineering. The Office of Naval Research sponsors the national program.

I was inspired to bring this project to our students here at Southern Avenue Charter School after hearing from one of our 5th Grade Academy instructors, Mario Grant. He had participated with a group over the summer building underwater robots. When the grant proposal that I had written was accepted for funding by the Junior League of Memphis, I was extremely pleased and excited. The thrill quickly turned into anxiety as I realized that I knew absolutely NOTHING about building robots. What had I gotten myself into?

As the proposed plan for this project was put into action, things begin to show promise. The project took a total of 12 weeks to complete. Students were challenged with learning new ideas and concepts while mastering new techniques such as soldering wires to metal, water-proofing, measuring, cutting, drilling and more. As the STEM Coordinator, I was challenged as well. This project took me out of my comfort zone however I am now more qualified to do my job than I was before this experience. Truth be told, I took just as much away from this as the students did! I continue to thrive with a sensation of accomplishment from watching young people become junior engineers right before my eyes. Students who had never been introduced to the engineering design process accomplishing what these young people have accomplished are to be commended.

Participants of the Sea Perch project enjoyed rigorous, hands-on training sessions that fueled their increase in both knowledge & “know how”.  Not only that, this project provided insight into several different fields of science including Marine Biology & Underwater Oceanography. STEM education is vitally important for our students to learn and become excited about, because the demand for STEM-educated workers continues to grow exponentially each day. I keep this in mind as I attempt to prepare our students for their future. I recognize the importance of allowing students the opportunity the engage in this type of learning and I am extremely grateful to the Junior League of Memphis for affording us this privilege. It has indeed been a pleasure.

View Sea Perch Project Video here to see the project in action.

Erika Brown
7th Grade Teacher and STEM Chair
Southern Avenue Charter School

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