Underwater education

Gruening students build submersible ROVs


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A remote operated vehicle (ROV) floats in the Buckner Physical Fitness Center pool on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson during a competition between Gruening Middle School eighth graders.

STAR PHOTO BY MIKE NESPER

Hard work pays off.

Tha’s something Carrie Wehmeyer, Christian Alvarez and Gavin Willman can attest to.

Those three were the top team out of nearly 100 Gruening Middle School eighth-graders who competed in a submersible remote operated vehicle (ROV) challenge at Buckner Physical Fitness Center’s pool on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Friday, Dec. 9.

Thirty teams made up of three to four students navigated their ROVs — constructed out of PVC pipe — through an underwater course.

The rest of the class of about 300, including the school’s band, packed the stands and cheered on their fellow classmates.

The top team from each school team — Deshka, Delta and Copper — competed in a final challenge to determine the champion.

The monthlong project culminated with a day of fun, but students put in many hours leading up to the final day in the pool, said science and math teacher Janet Clarke. Students worked independently building their ROVs, wiring the control boxes and learning how to maneuver the machines in water, she said.

“It’s not a kit,” Clarke said. “It’s truly a construction project.”

And it’s something that required out-of-classroom time to accomplish.

Willman said his team’s success was due to the work put in during lunch. For three weeks, the threesome shoveled down food quickly and spent their lunch period working on the project, he said.

It paid off.

Willman’s team was the first of three to defuse an underwater “bomb” — an inflated ball weighed down by swimming bricks — the goal being to bring it to the surface after dislodging it from a piece of PVC pipe. The team was the only one to successfully complete the final challenge.

“It was awesome,” he said.

The day at Buckner was full of suspense, Alvarez said.

“It was hard, it was stressful and it was really crazy,” he said.

Having the rest of her classmates looking on made the day nerve-racking, Wehmeyer said.

“It was really scary,” she said. “I was just nervous.”

The life lessons learned through the project are invaluable, Clarke said.

One of those lessons is learning to read and react quickly to unexpected situations, she said. Because students hadn’t used a pool the size of Buckner’s before, she said, they were met with new challenges.

“There’s a lot of things they learned today about being on the spot,” Clarke said.

The ROV submersible project, which Gruening students have participated in for four years, is an exciting way to learn, Clarke said.

“In reality, it’s an incredible natural consequence,” she said. “If you don’t wire it right, it won’t work. I love natural consequences like that.”

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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