There’s a group of Somerset Intermediate School students who enjoy staying after school to continue learning.
But the method of learning is different than the average school activity — they are building underwater robots.
The Green Engineers, a group that meets weekly on Thursdays, recently started constructing the robots which they’ll be able to put into a competition against other students later this school year as part of a grant-funded project.
“The best part is that I get to stay after school and just make something that I never thought I could have made,” said Areeb Mirza, 12, a seventh-grader and member of the club.
The Green Engineers are one of many groups across the nation participating in the SeaPerch program, an initiative sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and managed by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, according to the SeaPerch website.
“By offering a broad range of STEM education and outreach programs, the Navy seeks to address the national crisis of decreasing college enrollments and careers in science and engineering,” the SeaPerch website states.
Cindi Pietroski, Ph.D., a systems engineer at the U.S. Navy’s Surface Combat Systems Center in Wallops Island, was at Somerset Intermediate for her first time as a mentor in the program recently.
The Mount Vernon resident said she was mentored in connection with a science program when she was younger.
“Anything I can do to encourage them to get into the math and sciences is always, always a plus,” she said.
Students recently learned about simple machines and then worked in groups of four to cut PVC pipes for their robots while wearing safety glasses. The students made markings on the pipes after making precise measurements, said Pamela South, one of the Green Engineers’ advisers.
South, a mass communications and STEM teacher and media specialist, advises the club with science teacher Pat Benner.
South said before beginning to build the SeaPerch robots, the students had been learning background information and doing experiments, while also learning more about teamwork.
When they are done building the SeaPerches, they will have three small motors; the students will build a control box that is attached to their SeaPerch to make it move, she said.
The 27 students involved have about nine more meetings before the regional competition, South said.
The school will also be able to attach underwater cameras to the completed robots in water quality units in Benner’s science classes, South said.
She said she’d like to continue offering the opportunity next year, during the school day if possible.
Transportation can be a problem when it comes to after-school activities, she said.
Areeb said he’s always liked science and tried to make his own contraptions when he was younger.
Now, as part of the Green Engineers, after learning about teamwork, he’s looking forward to seeing how he and the other three in his group can work together to build something important.
Dakota Ferraro, 13, also a seventh-grader, said he feels being part of the Green Engineers is interesting and hands-on.
Ferraro, who said he enjoys engineering, is following in his dad’s footsteps — he said his dad worked on airplanes in the Air Force.
“I’ve learned how to use a pipe cutter and how to tell neutral buoyancy,” Ferraro said.
Somerset Intermediate Principal Josh Coughran said the curriculum doesn’t allow for many chances for students to use their hands and tools to build items like this does.
“I think it’s really important for students as far as making math and science something that’s really fun to do,” Coughran said.
To read this article on Delmarvanow.com click here.