Tag Archives: ONR

SeaPerch: An Underwater Robotics Program

seaperch With all the robotics programs to choose from, SeaPerch fills a unique niche. First off, it is underwater. All the others like VEX, FIRST, BotBall and Micro Robotics are land based. The only other underwater robotics program is MATE ROV which is geared toward high school students. Which brings me to the second differentiator, SeaPerch is geared primarily to elementary and secondary school students. Going on its third year, SeaPerch Hawaii attracted 30 teams this year to compete at the statewide qualifying round at the Coast Guard Base on Sand Island. The teams had two challenges to maneuver, an obstacle course and a finesse course. In the obstacle course, the underwater vehicles needed to maneuver through 5 rings. For the finesse course, there were three tasks. The first goal was to push a lever, the second task was to then to pick up a rod and place it into a pipe and the third was to slide a colored ring from one side of a ladder rung to the other. Each challenge had a 3 minute time limit. Teams that make it through these qualifiers move on to the 2015 National SeaPerch Challenge to be held on May 29 - 30 at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.
SeaPerch model designed for obstacle course
SeaPerch model designed for obstacle course
The SeaPerch kits are preconfigured but teams have the flexibility to add modified floatation devices in lieu of the supplied foam. I saw several vehicles using drink canisters. Each vehicle has three propeller motors controlled by an operator. I found it interesting how operators were reliant on spotters whose role was to watch the vehicle (from the surface) and relay directional instructions on which way to go. To do this they used their smartphones, not part of the SeaPerch kits. The Office of Naval Research is overall sponsor for SeaPerch. Community logistics and support provided by the Coast Guard, not to mention all the parents and teachers who also provide support and mentorship. The volunteer network to orchestrate the competition was quite impressive, from judges, announcers, data entry to spotters in the pool. A lot of work went into implementing this program. SeaPerch is a STEM feeder program that introduces students to underwater dynamics, electronics and marine engineering. As a launch point, SeaPerch students can continue onto MATE ROV or any of the other robotics programs and to perhaps on to a career in science or engineering. Additional Links: