by Naomi Klouda
McNeil Canyon Elementary 6th grade students spent last week taking their Standards Based Testing in the morning and building robots in the afternoon.
Sheryl Sotelo’s 6th grade class found the two topics harmonizing.
“It was a great thing after focusing so hard on the tests. From noon to 2 p.m., they took out their ROV projects and worked in groups,” Sotelo said Friday.
Kasistna Bay Lab Director Kris Holdereid started teaching the students, last Monday, how ROVs perform invaluable tasks in the real marine environment of today such as counting rock fish populations in Kachemak Bay and their work in Cook Inlet on oil rigs. Photos showed how they can repair oil rigs and conduct water sampling at different depths. Then on Tuesday, students began designing and drawing plans in teams of four-five students.
“She got them very excited in telling how they are used in the real world,” Sotello said.
These underwater Remote Operating Vehicles didn’t come from a kit, but from independent pieces, or “a lot of PVC pipe and connectors,” much of it supplied by Holdereid. Each of the five groups were given three motors and a control box. They had to figure out where to place the motors, and they designed their own robot where the motors are mounted.
Other materials come from a hardware store such as electrical tape, styrofoam and netting.
“They have to do a lot of critical thinking and trial and error to get the buoyancy right,” Sotello said. She brought a big fish tote into the classroom and filled it with water so the students could conduct preliminary tests. Each robot had four missions – it needed to dive, retrieve an object from the bottom, retrieve one from the surface, enter a hulla hoop and turn around and come back out.
The end to that busy week came when they tested the ROVs in the Homer High School swimming pool Friday. The team of Calvin Anderson, Tucker Weston, Hunter Warren, and Nikola Reutov were pleased with the results of their model during pool testing.
“It’s next mission is to pick up the volleyball,” Tucker explained, moving the hand control levers up and down or side to side to maneuver the ROV into place. The design on this one featured a net across the top frame and engines or bilge pumps spaced underneath. “Real ROVs need to be able to pick things up and do other underwater tasks.”
But next week, Hunter added, “it’s going into the harbor to see how it does in real water with real currents.”
That’s when they will get to see if their design is strong enough to handle in salt water, which can impact the buoyancy differently, the students said.
Sotello has completed ROV assignments with students each spring for several years.
“It seems like the perfect, irresistible thing for them to do. For them to realize how to do science where you can’t go and see the work – it is thoroughly engaging,” Sotello said. It inspires creativity, problem-solving, and a grasp of science.
On Friday, the six graders meet again at the Homer pool to go over a second stage in their ROV testing. The ROVs will be installed with lights and cameras this time and there’s a bonus task.
They will need to read a message at the bottom of the pool. Then it’s time to head to the harbor, to see how the ROVs perform in the real world.
Other 6th grade teams are:
•Sammy Walker, Thomas Bridgeman, Jakob Nelson, and Hunter Patton.
•Hailey Wilkens, Kat Temple, Alaya Temple, and Alexus Dawson
Elizabeth Kalugin, Summer McGuire, Erica White, and Lydia Chernishoff
•Josie Reyes, Ciara Jones, Rhythm Beckett-Cook, and Lia Jacobsen
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