Out to sea: West Side Elementary students win second place in regional competition

Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 25, 2017

After placing second in the Gulf Coast Regional SeaPerch competition, West Side Elementary 5th and 6th grade students are traveling to Starkville Saturday for their chance to bring home the state title.

During the regional competition held in Gulfport on March 8, the students won second place. The competition required participants to guide an aquatic remotely operated vehicle through an obstacle and puzzle course.

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“It was awesome,” one of Alicia Verwij’s gifted students said. “It made me want to become an engineer.”

The students spend about four to six weeks designing and constructing their ROV out of PVC pipe, wires and three waterproofed motors, Verwij said.

Just like a jet ski, the ROV doesn’t have any brakes, so the students had to figure out how to maneuver it around the course quickly and with the maximum amount of precision.

As they maneuvered the ROV around the pool, the team got points for each task accomplished, as well as for speed, Verwij said.

Planning ahead, the students actually built two models, they said, just in case one malfunctioned.

That preparation paid off because one of the remotes ended up being faulty and had to be replaced, the students said.

Although they couldn’t make alterations to the ROV from the regional to state competition, next year the students said they hope to construct a smaller vehicle so it can fit better through the course, and alter it so it doesn’t weigh the same amount as the cubes it has to carry.

“When I brought SeaPerch to my students, they were excited to be a part of a competition. In just about a month’s time, they learned what the engineering design process was, how to wire, attach motors, make a remote control, how to waterproof things, and how to place holes in the ROV to make it submerge,” Verwij said. “It’s been a great learning experience for them.”

With a $1,000 stipend from the Mississippi State University’s Bagley College of Engineers, the students left for Starkville on Friday to prepare for the competition.

They also received sponsorships from local businesses including Deep South Anesthesia Incorporated, Picayune Auto Sales, City Carpets, Moore Chiropractic Clinic and Picayune Veterinary Clinic, Verwij said.

While they may not all go into engineering or other STEM fields, the students said they enjoyed the experience and learning about the engineering process.

Even if they don’t win at state, the bragging rights they’ve earned for doing so well this year are enough, they said.

Verwij said she will announce the results of the competition at Tuesday’s Picayune School Board meeting.

About Julia Arenstam

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