2018-04-13 / Front Page

Mt. Ararat sending another team to SeaPerch finals

Times Record Staff

FROM LEFT, Alex Humphrey, Elijah Slocum and Emily Smith practice with the remotely operated underwater vehicle they will be competing with at an international competition in June. 
CHRIS QUATTRUCCI / THE TIMES RECORD FROM LEFT, Alex Humphrey, Elijah Slocum and Emily Smith practice with the remotely operated underwater vehicle they will be competing with at an international competition in June. CHRIS QUATTRUCCI / THE TIMES RECORD TOPSHAM

Mt. Ararat High School students are diving into international competition, heading underwater in their quest.

For the fifth consecutive year, a Mt. Ararat team will be taking part in the SeaPerch international finals. SeaPerch is a competition in which students build a remotely operated underwater vehicle.

This year’s team, comprised of juniors Emily Smith, Alex Humphrey and Elijah Slocum, had an impressive showing in finishing first at the regional competition.

“This group, of all the teams I’ve had, they dominated,” said teacher and group adviser Glenn Evans. “They took first at the state in every event. I’ve never had a team do that before.”

The team will now compete in the International SeaPerch Challenge on June 2 in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

A combination of hard work, and trial and error brought them to the international level.

“SeaPerch gives us this box of materials and they challenge you to go above and beyond,” said Slocum. “You have to write down your logs in a scientific journal and we work from November until this past month to construct a robot of our own design.”

SeaPerch provides some PVC pipe, wires and materials for a controller. Teams are allowed no more than an additional $20 to construct the machine.

The entire process — successes and failures — is logged in a journal. Smith logged the information for the group, which also counts toward the team’s score in competition.

“The first thing is getting something working. Pieces tend to break when you get stuff in the pool,” said Humphrey. “Once it gets in the pool you have to make sure everything’s working, it’s controllable, and it doesn’t float, doesn’t sink, and it goes in straight lines.”

Teams get points for maneuvering their underwater vehicle through an obstacle course and moving various objects. The team must also continue to log a journal up until the final international competition.

The team will be tinkering with the vehicle ahead of June, hoping to improve its speed. Evans has advised them to take careful notes, in case they don’t like the changes — after all, it is a competition of trial and error.

In its short existence — just five years — Mt. Ararat has built a tradition of success, reaching the international competition each year.

Matt Berger discovered the club his senior year. His 2016 team has had the most success in the final challenge thus far, finishing 11 out of 75 teams. Currently studying mechanical engineering at Southern Maine Community College, Berger has returned to help the current team.

“This club was like the perfect thing, so much that I came back to do it again,” said Berger. “It helped define my interest. I knew I wanted to be an inventor, it helped me define exactly what about it that I liked.”

Evans echoed the importance of the club helping direct students into a field of interest.

“In terms of the value of this program,” he said, “there’s a lot of students who either got interested in engineering through this or had an interest and it really helped solidify that.”

This year’s team members all plan to continue to follow their interest in engineering beyond high school. Humphrey and Slocum both hope to pursue mechanical engineering, and Smith would like to do something in chemistry or medicine.

The group typically meets once a week to start, but ramp up to daily practices about two weeks prior to competition. As they prepare for the international event, the team will likely conduct some work at the Bowdoin College pool. The competitions take place in a full-size pool, but the team typically practices at a smaller pool at the high school, so the larger pool will help simulate the event conditions.

The last step for the team is raising funds to help defray costs from taking part in the international competition, and Evans plans to meet with parents after spring break to discuss those efforts.


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