Students gearing up for robotics competition

Published 7:00 am Saturday, February 24, 2018

West Side Elementary School’s Robotics Team of 4th, 5th and 6th graders received a $500 grant from the Retired Education Personnel of Mississippi to support the team in attending this year’s International SeaPerch competition.

The school’s gifted education teacher, Alicia Verweij, said the grant will cover the students’ materials as well as travel to and from the competition in Biloxi.  The SeaPerch competition is an international affair, which includes contestants from the United States, Australia, Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands and others. According to the SeaPerch official website, the aim of the event is for students to build an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle, or ROV, and then maneuver it through a set of obstacles before a group of judges. According to the website, the vehicle will be judged on three things: vehicle performance, which includes maneuverability and recovery, innovative design and engineering notebook submissions.

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In her request for the funding from the Retired Education Personnel of Mississippi, Verweij wrote that participating in the event is beneficial to students since it “offers our children a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that fosters critical thinking through problem solving and ultimately providing them with an academic edge over the competition.”

According to an article by the Pew Research Center, the United States’ education of math and science has severely fallen behind those of other industrial nations. Every three years, the Program for International Student Assessment, “measures reading ability, math and science literacy and other key skills among 15-year-olds in dozens of developed and developing countries.”

In 2015, it was determined that students in the United States placed 38th in math and 24th in science out of 71 countries. The article also states that while students in the U.S. have indicated some recent improvement in science, NAEP data shows that math scores continually drop.

In 2015, results from the Program for International Student Assessment concluded that students from Singapore ranked the highest in science, mathematics, and reading. Students from Hong Kong ranked second in mathematics and reading while students from Japan ranked second in science. United States students ranked around or below the overall average.  In 2016, students from the West Side Elementary School ranked 2nd at the regional competition and moved on to the state competition where they placed 4th. Verweij said that this year, with improved funding, they hope to do even better. This year’s competition will be held March 17 at the Biloxi Natatorium.