Inspired Youth

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
U.S. Senator Joseph Donnelly (Photo: Sproull Photography)

Indianapolis Hosts Third National SeaPerch Challenge


The City of Indianapolis and the Indiana SeaPerch regions were the ideal combination to host the Third National SeaPerch Challenge at the Natatorium on the campus of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) on May 17 – 19, 2013.  On Friday evening, May 17, 83 top robotic teams from middle and high schools, after school and out-of-school programs in 23 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico convened at the IUPUI Natatorium for a weekend of competition and fun-filled activities.  This Third National Challenge was sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), AUVSIFoundation and NAVAIR as well as ASNE, CISD, Indianapolis State Police Divers, Maritime Reporter, Mississippi State University, NAVSEA, Navy League STEM Institute, Naval Submarine Support Facility, New London, Navy Recruiting District Michigan, NDEP, RoboNation and STEM2Stern. The Office of Naval Research has funded its popular signature SeaPerch Program for almost six years and the program has experienced unprecedented growth numbering more than 100,000 students having participated in almost all 50 states.  With more than 6,000 teachers and mentors in the program over the past six years, students have learned valuable life skills through hands-on activities and enhanced science curricula to discover the excitement of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as a potential future career path.

This innovative underwater robotics program trains teachers and provides curriculum enhancement in compliance with national standards to instruct students on how to build an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) in an in-school, after school or out-of-school setting.  Students build their own ROV following a curriculum that teaches science and engineering nomenclature, terminology and basic principles with an ocean and marine engineering theme.  Because of its popularity and extraordinary rate of expansion in such a short time, a natural goal of the SeaPerch Program has been to develop geographical regions where top winning teams from regional competitions could then qualify for a national event.  This year, 85% of the teams participating at the National Challenge were from established or forming regions, and the remaining 15% were single team entries.

Again this year, teams arriving from all over the country were treated to an informal welcome party on Friday evening at the Natatorium where students, their adult leaders, and the National Planning Committee members, could meet and mingle in a relaxed setting with plenty of kid-friendly snacks to satisfy everyone.  Teams were given the opportunity to preregister and to complete the Compliance Checks of their ROV’s to reduce the crush the next morning.  Coincident with our National Competition, the National Tool and Machining Association’s National Robotics League was holding its land-based BattleBot national championships on the same weekend only a few doors away at the Campus Center.  Through a joint collaboration between SeaPerch and NRL, the two robotic groups hosted a “Games Night” following our welcome party, which was held very nearby at the JW Marriott Hotel.  More than 400 students showed up for light refreshments and fun board games that evening. The next morning, the remaining teams registered and completed their compliance checks as the excitement quickly built for a day of competition starting with the opening ceremonies on the Olympic pool deck.      Presiding was Susan Nelson, Executive Director of SeaPerch, who first introduced Steve Tamasi, National Robotics League Team Leader who spoke to the group about the BattleBot championships being held all day Saturday and part of Sunday.  Next, Capt. Robert Palisin II, USN, Deputy Head of Sea Warfare and Weapons Department, Office of Naval Research spoke about the value of STEM and this country’s need for engineers and scientists followed by Indiana’s Lt. Governor, Sue Ellspermann, who welcomed the students to Indiana and reinforced the value of a STEM education helping to restore our nation’s prominence.

Throughout the day teams competed in three events including the Poster Presentation, the Obstacle Course and the Deep Water Transfer on three levels: Middle School, High School, and new for this year, the Open Class, which allowed for unlimited creativity and design innovation.  Of the 83 teams in attendance on Saturday, 35 were middle school, 44 high school and four in the new open class. During the Poster Presentations in the auxiliary gym the teams presented their SeaPerch project to groups of judges consisting of engineers and educators. Each poster was scored based on appearance, text/graphics balance, organizational flow, school/team identification. Team members made oral presentations of their objectives, their design rationale, challenges and solutions, and responded to questions from the judges, who also graded their professionalism. 

The submerged obstacle course involved five 24-inch diameter hoops, oriented in different planes, through which the vehicles had to travel.  Teams were required to navigate through the entire obstacle course, surface, then re-submerge and return through the course again to the end.  Scores for this round were based on the shortest time for successfully navigating the course within the 15-minte time allotment.

The Deep Water Transfer event required teams to retrieve up to 12 rings positioned on either side of two racks at different depths, and to place the rings in one of two bins located close to the vehicle operator but also at different depths.  Points were awarded for the number of rings retrieved from the racks’ near side and from the far side as well as for each ring placed in either the lower or upper bin.  Teams were scored on the most points recorded in 20 minutes.

There were 84 judges and volunteers on hand as well to ensure that all events were professionally judged and that the busy day’s schedule was maintained.  The event was video-streamed live from poolside via the SeaPerch website so sponsors, supporters and team coaches could invite their companies and their schools’ principals, superintendents, teachers and fellow students as well as families back home to watch their teams in action. Near the end of the day’s events, invited guests and speakers were on hand to witness the excitement at poolside and in the auxiliary gym prior to the start of the gala awards ceremony and banquet. Nearly 700 people, an increase of 20% over last year in Manassas, Va., were on hand that evening for the festivities at the JW Marriott Hotel.  Mistress of Ceremonies, Susan Nelson, began the program by introducing the person, who started it all, Kelly Cooper from ONR, who congratulated all of the teams and encouraged partnering individual SeaPerch programs with universities.  Students, teachers, coaches, mentors, speakers, invited guests, judges, volunteers, parents and friends were further enthralled by the remarks from Chevanne Binns-Wallace and Keyan Wills, two students from Baltimore’s Mergenthaler Vocational   Technology High School, and recent SeaPerch representatives to the third White House Science Fair held on April 20.  They were followed by Capt. Troy Mong, USN, Commanding Officer, NROTC, Purdue University and Colonel Alan M. Pratt, USMC, Commanding Officer, NSWC, Crane Division, who inspired the students with stories of their professional and life lessons and relating their SeaPerch experience to STEM subjects in school and potential future careers in engineering and science. 

The evening was capped by a speech from U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly from the State of Indiana, who revealed that early on he had been a student of naval architecture, successfully built his own boat, and recognized the importance of the maritime industry to our country.  He added another surprising fact that all nuclear submarine propulsion systems for the U.S. Navy’s submarine fleet were manufactured right there in southern Indiana!

With anticipation at its highest level, Nelson called for all uniformed military personnel in attendance to join her at the podium to assist in awarding the trophies to the winning middle school, high school and open class teams in all three National Challenge events, a summary of which is summarized on page nine.

2013 National SeaPerch Challenge Results

First Place Obstacle Course

Team    Time or Points

Middle School
“Sea Knights 4-H”    1:03.9   
4-H Robotics Club of Burlington County, Mt. Laurel, NJ   

High School
“Sea Cougars”    49.34
Colts Neck HS Navy JROTC, Colts Neck, NJ

Open Class
“WHS NJROTC”    1:20.9
Washington HS Navy JROTC, Washington, IN

First Place Deep Water Transfer

Middle School
“Poseidon”    6:38.3
Seton School/Home School, Manassas, VA

High School
“The Hero that Gotham Deserves”    :57.0
Owen Valley HS, Spencer, IN

Open Class
“WHS NJROTC”    7:45.0
Washington HS Navy JROTC, Washington, IN

Poster Presentation Overall Winner

“FAU Sea Owls”    80    
Florida Atlantic University HS, Boca Raton, FL

Middle School – Overall Winner
“Seaperch 1 (St. John’s)”    11
St. John the Baptist Catholic School, Newburgh, IN

High School – Overall Winner
“The Joe Iveys”    15
Bloomington HS South, Bloomington, IN

Open Class – Overall Winner
Washington HS Navy JROTC, Washington, IN

2013 National SeaPerch Champion

Team    Total Points

First Place
“The Joe Iveys”    16
Bloomington HS South, Bloomington, IN

Second Place
“Neptune Robotics”    20
Souderton Area HS, Souderton, PA

Third Place
“Maritime Academy Charter”    25
Maritime Academy Charter School, Philadelphia, PA

See You in Mississippi in 2014!
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Susan Nelson announced that next year’s National SeaPerch Challenge will be held on the campus of The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, MS on Saturday, May 17, 2014.  She added that all participants would stay on campus in dorm rooms, and use the dining hall for meals and the university’s pool and classrooms for the underwater and poster challenges.


(As published in the July 2013 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News -

  • The Joe Iveys, Overall Winning Team (Photo: Sproull Photography)

    The Joe Iveys, Overall Winning Team (Photo: Sproull Photography)

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