'Hands-on applied science'

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 19:00
Gruening students build submersible ROVs
Eighth-grader Sarah Feinstein places her ROV submersible into a pool at Gruening Middle School on Dec. 6. The entire eighth-grade class participates in the annual project.

Students and teachers at Gruening Middle School enjoy the eighth-grade class’ annual submersible remote operated vehicle (ROV) challenge for the same reason — no textbooks.

The project doesn’t require students to conduct hours of research using multiple books. However, there’s also no cheat sheet available should a problem arise.

“They can’t Google the answer how to fix it,” technology collaborator Greg Barta said. “That’s the best part. They use their brain to solve it.”

Every Gruening eighth-grader has participated in the project for the past five years. Broken into teams of three, students follow directions to independently construct their ROVs out of PVC pipe, wire a control box and learn how to maneuver the subs.

The monthlong project culminates with a school wide competition to crown the top team at Bartlett High’s pool Friday, Dec. 14.

Operating the ROV in water was the most difficult part of the project, said Anthony Calkins.

“If it was like a regular steering wheel, I could probably do it,” he said as students practiced in an inflatable pool at Gruening on Dec. 6.

For Dylan Llamas, the control box posed the biggest challenge.

“The wiring was the hardest part,” he said. “The control box is very tedious.”

Getting her team’s ROV to balance in the water and submerge was no easy task, Kate Paskievitch said.

She learned many useful lessons from the project, Paskievitch said.

“We learned a lot about how batteries work,” she said. “How to wire things and circuits.”

The project is a great way to introduce students to tools, Barta said.

“It’s practical,” he said. “It’s hands-on applied science.”

Llamas agreed.

“It’s teaching us how to build a submarine,” he said.

It also forces the kids to problem solve in a group setting, Barta said.

“They have to work as a team,” he said.

The project offers a glimpse into adult life, Barta said.

“In real life, you don’t always get to pick your co-workers,” he said. “But, you still have to produce a product.”

Watching Gruening’s eighth-graders construct submersible ROV’s is something Barta looks forward to each year.

“It’s an awesome project,” he said.

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