Youth Work with Robots through Navy Program

Story Number: NNS090530-06Release Date: 5/30/2009 11:33:00 AM
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By Naval Undersea Warfare Center Keyport Public Affairs

KEYPORT, Wash. (NNS) -- Volunteers from Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), Keyport and Navy divers from USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) facilitated a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Challenge Day for physics students at Central Kitsap School District's Olympic pool May 19.

An ROV is essentially an underwater robot used in the offshore industry to help study the ocean. These robots are operated by a person aboard a vessel.

The ROV outreach program, led by NUWC Keyport and Naval Undersea Museum Foundation, provides participating students with hands-on experience in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

"This program is a wonderful opportunity for the students to explore the challenge of a real ocean engineering design problem and measure their success in an underwater setting," said Rear Adm. Thomas Eccles, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) deputy commander for Naval Systems Engineering. "The kids are excited, and so are the adults, many of whom are Navy employees or veterans who bring real expertise to the project."

The ROV Challenge Program begins in the classroom four to six weeks prior to a Challenge Day in the pool. Participating students study physics, computer-aided design, introduction to engineering, engineering design and marine biology work. Assisted by volunteers, teams of two students work together to design, build and test an ROV.

Paul Birkenfield, a teacher at Central Kitsap High School, who guided his physics class through the ROV Challenge Program, said this year's class benefited by applying what they learned about buoyancy and circuit wiring to the development and operation of their ROVs.

"It was application of lessons in the real world," Birkenfield said. "It was interesting and frustrating for the students. They had to make repairs and adjustments."

"It's really fun," said Brian Gustafson, a junior who experienced the ROV Challenge for the first time this year. "I do a lot of hands-on stuff. It gave me a lot of confidence to do this and see it be a success without any trouble."

The 'proof of concept' ROV Challenge Program was held at one local high school in 2005. Since that time, the outreach program has been established in two additional school districts. This year, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility launched the program at their first high school in another school district.

"Today, 11 different organizations and over 80 people in the area are supporting the outreach program," said Paul Fukuhara, a supervisory engineer with NUWC Keyport. "In 2005, we reached 100 kids. Today we are reaching approximately 500 high school students."

There are currently five high schools participating in the ROV outreach program led by NUWC Keyport and Naval Undersea Museum Foundation.

For more news from Naval Sea Systems Command, visit

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