We live in the future

What did you do on your summer vacation? Bet you didn’t spend it building an underwater robot. Four Smithsonian interns are competing in an international competition with their remotely operated vehicle. Go team!

For the past three years, Woody Lee, a research assistant at the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce, Florida, has mentored a group of four high school student interns for an underwater robot competition. Their remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) won the Florida Region competition on May 12,  beating 27 other high school teams.

Team poses with trophy

The Smithsonian STEM ROV team poses with their first place trophy at the Florida Regional Competition on May 12, 2018. Pictured from left, Nick Stange, Kendall Lee, Emma Bennett and Barry Smith. (Photo by Howard Bennett)

“During the competition they conducted a number of underwater skills with the robot they built, gave an oral engineering presentation describing their ROV and how it worked, and created a written presentation of the mock company they created for the competition,” says Woody.

The students, Emma Bennett, Nick Stange, Kendall Lee and Barry Smith, met in the Smithsonian Marine Station summer camp program. After building simple ROV’s made of PVC pipe and bilge pump motors to run in a kiddie pool at camp, the team was hooked and asked Woody to be their mentor for the competition. All four were offered Smithsonian Student Internships and have worked with Woody on the Team Smithsonian STEM ROV, for the past three years.

In addition to communicating with Woody during the week, the students get together with him nearly every weekend throughout the internship to build the ROV, go over calculations, and complete other various tasks required to finish their winning ROV.

“As a mentor, I have been rewarded watching this group mature and think more critically over the last 3 years” says Woody. “Three of them now want to go into engineering in college as a result of these internships, and the other, Emma, wants to go to medical school.”

Underwater robot

The winning remotely operated underwater vehicle made by the Smithsonian STEM ROV team. (Photo by Bernadette Stange)

After winning the Florida region, Team Smithsonian STEM ROV will now compete in the international MATE ROV Ranger Competition in Seattle held June 21-23. They will be up against the winners of over 30 other regional competitions from around the world.

Good luck to Team Smithsonian STEM ROV! We can’t wait to see where this competition takes them!

This post was written by Abbey Shepard, media intern in the Office of Academic Services at the National Museum of Natural History.


Posted: 22 June 2018
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