Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Just Add Water

Posted 04/05/2017 by Jordan Prochnow

SeaPerch allows students to construct underwater robots with the goal of maneuvering through an obstacle course. photo courtesy of SeaPerch

TJ’s advanced robotics classes constructed underwater submarine robots for a recent competition.

On Saturday, March 11th, two teams from TJ’s advanced robotics classes participated in Denver’s SeaPerch Challenge, a nationwide competition sponsored by the US Navy Offficr of Recruiting, managed by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Foundation (AUVSIF), and supported by the Office of Naval Research. The competition placed students in a unique setting, requiring students to add underwater tasks to an already challenging competition.

SeaPerch requires students to construct their own underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) from a kit of basic parts, including PVC pipes, pool noodles, and motors. Students utilize a wide variety of topics and skills that are practiced by naval engineers to construct their own submarines, including buoyancy and water depth, to navigate their ROVs through an obstacle course beneath the water and to transport items. “Robotics is a challenge no matter what, but adding water gives us another obstacle,” explained sophomore Logan Cecil. “It’s pretty cool to see the robots driving and accomplishing so much even with that difficult aspect.”

This is TJ’s second year participating in the competition; in their inaugural year involved with SeaPerch, one of their teams qualified and took part in nationals. This season, over twenty teams were at the regional event, and both Spartan teams placed in the top half. The first team from TJ this year, consisting of Cecil and sophomores Evan Kelly, Quinn L’Heureux, Ahmed Khattab, and Evan Jacobsen, placed fifth overall, second in the notebook competition (teams utilize an engineering notebook that details their build progress and are scored on their organization), and third in the obstacle challenge. The second team, consisting of juniors Camy Guenther and Tori Conroy, and sophomores Monika Flores-Lujan, Nate Brill, and Tony Capra took ninth place overall and second in the obstacle challenge. “The event takes place in the student rec center at CU Boulder and from the moment you arrive everything is set up and efficient,” explained robotics instructor Matt Santambrogio. “The robots are a little less complicated, so there is less stress about compliance check in but since you are judged on three events and you only have a certain amount of time to perform, everything moves very fast.”

Each group’s kit of parts, used to construct the robots, was donated from the Educational Branch of the Navy, arranged by TJ’s Career Technology Education and Partnership Coordinator Danny Showers. Showers is a member of the board of directors for the branch, and was instrumental in providing this opportunity to TJ. “SeaPerch is a worthwhile competition because it is so different, it involves some very technical skills such as soldering, buoyancy equations, and a complex documentation of the process, but it also very fun and engaging for the students,” stated Santambrogio.

TJ’s robotics program continues to show their impressive talents and ingenuity, participating in intense competitions like SeaPerch. TJ robotics is sure to return next year with a vengeance and another round of creative underwater robots.