Robots took a dive in the Willowbend Country Club pool as Quashnet 5th graders and their high school mentors put their SeaPerch ROVs—the culmination of a year-long project—to the test earlier this month.
From the side of the pool, the students guided their remote-controlled vehicles, constructed of PVC pipe and pool noodles and complete with motors and propellers, through an underwater obstacle course.
The students designed about 40 individually designed ROVs, said Amanda Hough, a technology and engineering teacher at Mashpee Middle-High School. Then they dove them through a submerged hula hoop, had them swim courses, and maneuvered them up, down, forward, backward, and left and right in the water as part of a project that taught the 5th grade class about science, technology and the physics of underwater vehicles.
The Mashpee High robotics students 3D-printed the motor mounts and constructed the electronic control boxes for the ROVs as they mentored the 5th grade class through the project.
The cross-age student teaching that took place was important to the project’s success, Ms. Hough said.
“This project never could have been done if it was just the 5th graders,” she said, adding that having the high school students use their knowledge and then share it with the 5th graders meant a more complex project could be done with more students.
“Younger kids love to learn from older kids,” she said.
The entire 5th grade class—more than 100 students—was involved with the ROV project, which has been added to the 5th grade curriculum for future classes.
“It’s extremely unique that a whole grade got to make SeaPerch ROVs,” Ms. Hough said. She described the project as the “brainchild” of Mairead Mayen, a 5th grade science teacher.
Groups of 5th graders constructed unique designs for their ROVs in science classes taught by Elizabeth Babich, Colleen Blount and Ms. Mayen.
Before putting their ROVs to a final test at the Willowbend pool, Ms. Mayen said that the 5th graders tested their designs in a 40-gallon tank of water and then rebuilt them based on those results.
“So many valuable discussions and problem-solving opportunities came out of this experience,” Ms. Mayen said.
Ms. Hough said that with different designs, the vehicles maneuvered differently in the water, with some designs completing some underwater tasks and courses more easily than others.
One design that worked pretty well, she said, was an underwater ROV that looked a little bit like a “Star Wars X-wing fighter.”
Ms. Hough said that next time they do the project a few minor changes will be made. For example, more control boxes and motor mounts will be made and they will try to make the propellers—which kept falling off—stay on better.
Ms. Mayen has high hopes for the project’s future. “Ideally, this project will continue long into the future so that today’s 5th graders will become tomorrow’s mentors,” she said.