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USNA STEM Office Winter News Highlights

Posted on: April 01, 2013 08:00 EDT by Naval Academy Public Affairs

The Naval Academy Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Program has been busy this semester!

Robotics Tournament

In January the U.S. Naval Academy hosted an all day STEM initiative to showcase the innovation, research and robotics designs of regional teams based on rubrics from the nonprofit organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), founded to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. There were more than 200 participants from regional schools, and more than 25 midshipmen volunteers.

There were several robotics competitions occurring during the event. Younger students participated in the LEGO First Robotics League, where they learned basic programming and design while being mentored by students in the sciences (including midshipmen.) There were 26 teams of K-3rd graders and seven teams of 4th—8th graders. Each team researched a specific topic and built a model from LEGOs which included a moving part and at least one of example of a “simple machine.”

Twenty-eight teams of high school students came to the event to demonstrate and test the robots they had built, designed and programmed over the course of several months leading up to the competition. The challenge had several components including an autonomous challenge where the robots had to be pre-programmed to navigate a particular scenario and a timed challenge mode where teams competed against one another to move rings to particular locations. Teams were judged on design.

Faculty Travel

STEM Professors Mark Murray, Pat Moran and Angela Moran spent a long weekend at the naval station in Pensacola, training SeaCadet Leaders, NJROTC leaders, 4H Club Directors and Navy League Volunteers on Underwater Robotics design and build methods. Completed robots were tested in the water survival tank. The trip also included a tour of the National Flight Academy, an immersion experience for students on a simulated aircraft carrier and discussion on Navy collaborations.

Ocean Exploration Workshop

In February, USNA hosted a joint presentation of the SEAPERCH/NOAA Ocean Exploration Workshop along with the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research at NOAA. This workshop was developed to be both hands-on and informative for teachers and STEM educators. Thirty teachers – local and from outside Maryland – attended the event where they learned about the NOAA Deep Ocean Explorer unit as well as how to build SeaPerch ROVs.

The SeaPerch ROV build was a speed build initiation training. Teachers were instructed on everything from circuit soldering, the mechanical build of the body of the ROV from PVC pipe, and the wiring of motors and placement of propellors. All of the participants left the workshop with their own SeaPerch and an advanced knowledge of how to teach their students to build their very own underwater tethered robots.

NOAA led the exploration portion of the workshop with discussions ranging from the reasons for ocean exploration to the kinds of technologies that are used to explore the deep ocean. Speakers highlighted the need for exploration to map the water column using tethered ROVs similar to SeaPerch due to the fact that currently only 5 percent of the ocean floor has been thoroughly mapped.

This was the first partnership between NOAA and the USNA STEM Office There is much excitement and hope for more opportunities for partnership in the future.

STEM Merit Badges

USNA National Eagle Scouts and the STEM Office hosted around 350 scouts for a merit badge weekend. In addition to leadership and camping activities, midshipmen and faculty offered 14 STEM merit badges including aviation, computers, engineering, and medicine.


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