Student competitors work on their underwater ROV during the competition.

Georgia Tech Research Institute and Navy Team Up to Present Middle School Robotics Competition


Students from nine metro Atlanta middle schools deployed their underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROV) in a competition sponsored by the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) and the U.S. Navy.

More than 140 students from six metro-area counties participated in the GTRI-Navy STEM Summit and SeaPerch Competition held at the Georgia Tech Aquatics Center on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Participants spent three months building and perfecting their ROVs after receiving their SeaPerch kits.

During the competition, the teams from the different schools completed a series of tasks and raced their vehicles in the Georgia Tech pool. Teams participated in two competitions—the Poster Competition and the Pool Competition. Organizers presented first- through third-place awards in both categories, with one Grand Champion named at the conclusion.

Schools and counties participating included the following:

  • Campbell Middle School (Cobb County)
  • Eagle’s Landing Middle School (Henry County)
  • Flat Rock Middle and J.C. Booth Middle schools (Fayette County)
  • Lanier Middle, Radloff Middle and Twin Rivers Middle schools (Gwinnett County)
  • Memorial Middle School (Rockdale County)
  • Peachtree Charter Middle School (DeKalb County)

J.C. Booth Middle School won the overall Grand Champion award, third place in the Pool Competition and first place in the Poster Competition. Twin Rivers won second place in both the Poster and Pool competitions, and Campbell won first in the Pool Competition and third in the Poster Competition.

“What I have seen in our STEM students is a level of engagement and commitment that I’ve never seen equaled in two decades of teaching,” said Dr. Kathleen Lanman, STEM and Gifted Science Teacher and STEM Coordinator from J.C. Booth Middle School. “The kids are passionate about the projects we offer, and regularly exceed our expectations. Rather than find reasons not to complete tasks, they ask for more. It’s truly amazing to see them in action.”

STEM@GTRI’s mandate includes engaging students in all aspects of STEM education and providing teachers with the professional development needed to enhance their schools’ curricula. In addition to hosting the students, nearly 87 GTRI, Georgia Tech and Navy personnel supported the event through volunteering or working, and 29 parents, grandparents and chaperones were on-hand to aid in the competition.

“GTRI is a perfect partner in the SeaPerch Program because both GTRI and the Navy share many of the same goals,” said Leigh McCook, GTRI’s director of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics education) outreach, STEM@GTRI. “We work to focus on real-life STEM applications that give students an entrée to post-secondary education and careers. Working with such a key sponsor—the U.S. Navy—we helped not only students, but teachers, understand and learn more about the relevance of robotics, as well as the engineering and scientific processes in the real world.”

Students also were introduced to several of GTRI’s STEM outreach “road kits,” portable science experiments that are available for parents and employees to take to schools for demonstrations. The Campus Recreation Center’s main hallway set the stage for several physics and chemistry experiments.

Experiments included an acoustics demonstration, an investigation of vacuum physics, angular momentum and a materials/polymer demonstration, where students were able to take home colored slime they made. GTRI researchers showed the explosive results when 15 liters of hot water joins 25 liters of very cold liquid nitrogen. A water vapor cloud 20 feet high settled over the pool deck as a result.

“As always, the Navy City Outreach team is happy to participate in events with students and community leaders that promote STEM education and learning with robotics,” said Lt. Commander Nikki Peoples, with the Navy City Outreach—Southeast Region Office. “It’s encouraging to witness the joy and enthusiasm that comes from students actively engaged in programs like SeaPerch. We are also inspired to see students make the connection between what they learn in the classroom and the real world applications of robotics to the Navy’s many missions both domestic and abroad.”

Through its STEM outreach, GTRI has engaged with 25 school systems, reached more than 9,000 students with special events, supported 2,618 participants in sustained engagements and hosted 21 Technology Association of Georgia Education Collaborative (TAG-Ed) interns in summer 2015.


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