We aren’t likely to forget our first competition…

28 Apr

And so, at 11:15, with lunch quickly approaching, and having watched the kids do everything they could to fix the problem (including rebuilding and re-soldering a completely new left thruster without a single instruction from me), only to have the motor fail again, and with a growing suspicion that the problem wasn’t the motor, but instead a break somewhere in our 20 ft. of tether cable, I decided it was time to get humble and call in reinforcements.

I asked one student to go find his “Pop-Pop” and another to go find my colleague, our second chaperon, Jen.  When they showed up, I smiled and went for it. “Um… so… would the two of you be willing to drive back to campus, get security to let you into the elementary science lab, find one or two of the SeaPerches stored in the back of the room, and bring them back here ideally within the next 40 minutes?” 

And that’s how we managed to get back in the game. The minute Pop-Pop and Jen returned from campus, the kids swapped out the thrusters and ran down to the pool to find a judge to give them one last shot.

Checkpoint 2… the pool test… third attempt… PASS!

Now all we had to do was figure out how to be at the pool competing, while simultaneously giving a presentation in a building three blocks away. I was beginning to think we were in over our heads, but we couldn’t give up now.

We held a team meeting in the lobby to discuss our options. The kids decided to split into two groups, a pool group and a presentation group. I took the pool kids, my colleague, Jen, who had no idea the day she was in for, took the presentation group.

(I hadn’t yet mentioned to Jen that, while the kids had created a Powerpoint presentation, they had never actually had a chance to practice presenting. I also didn’t realize it was pouring, literally a crack in the sky downpour, outside and that the presentation building was 3 blocks away! Poor Jen.)

So off she went with half the kids and a laptop and I went back to the pool with “Steve” and the remaining crew. We had an hour left until pool time.  One of the challenges in the SeaPerch “Cap the Well” course, was to skim “oil” (aka ping-pong balls) off the surface of the water. The team had not yet been able to get the skimmer to work successfully. I suggested that they use the remaining hour to fine tune the ROV and perhaps improve the skimmer design. They grabbed pliers, a coat hanger, electrical tape and cutters and got to work. Two of them worked on improving the design of the skimmer while the other two worked to tape the camera tether to the control box tether. With 30 minutes left until pool time, and the kids hard at work, a judge came up and said, “Ok! Ready to go?”  (Gulp.) They made their last few adjustments and the first team headed down to the pool deck.

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2 Responses to “We aren’t likely to forget our first competition…”

  1. Daniele Tedesco May 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm #


    You did a great job on this competition and I was very happy to help. I learned as much as I taugh during this experience. It was a ton of fun. Keep spreading the word about engineering. Engineers have the most exciting and most important jobs (second to teachers). We keep the world turning.

    I look forward to helping out again.

    • missgreer May 6, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

      Thanks Dan! I’ll keep spreading the word about engineering and you keep spreading the word about teachers. Volunteers like you help to empower and inspire teachers like me. 😉

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