Students finally test out handcrafted ROVs

The sound of splashing replaced the early morning bell for some Central Kitsap Junior High School students earlier this week.

The sound of splashing replaced the early morning bell for some Central Kitsap Junior High School students earlier this week.

On Monday, students in a power energy transportation class took year-end projects to the poolside at Olympic High School to test their hand-crafted Remotely Operated Vehicles, also known as ROVs.

Nearly 30 students worked in pairs to get their ROVs going in the shallow end of the pool.

“It’s a straight up hands-on activity, and I love it,” said  Mark Anderson, who has been teaching the ROV lesson the last seven years. “(I have) students that struggle in every other class, but they absolutely love this because they’re working with electricity and in the shop.”

Anderson has students follow instructions produced by SeaPerch, an “innovative underwater robotics program” that helps gives teachers and students resources to build underwater ROVs in both in-school and out-of-school settings.

“Students learn best by doing, and during the process of building SeaPerch, they follow steps to completely assemble the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), test it, and then participate in launching their vehicles,” states the SeaPerch website.

Additionally, Navy divers from Keyport and engineers from PSNS also participate, helping the students during the lesson. The divers were on site to untangle the projects, fetch toys and otherwise assist in keeping the underwater event running smoothly.

During Monday’s lesson, students were required to follow a variety of directions test the ROVs, including using an ROV’s probes to pick up items on the bottom of the pool.

The ROVs are powered by a motorcycle battery, and as part of the lesson, students are required to solder and piece together the wiring and PVC pipes to create a working ROV.

Kirsten Dickey, 14, said that “learning how everything works” together was probably her favorite part of the four-week long project.

“I like hands-on stuff,” she said, noting that soldering quickly became the best part of the project.

Her dad owns a transmission shop, and the practice she’s had over the last month with mechanics has made her think about the possibility of one day taking on her dad’s business.

“I always thought it would be fun to take over,” she said.

The power energy transportation course once counted as a physics course, but now counts as high school credit for students, Anderson said.

Because of the high-caliber projects the students work on — such as repairing lawn mowers and reassembling three-horse power motors — it is a pre-requisite for those who wish to do the same program in high school.

For most students, getting outside the classroom to actually test the ROVs seemed to be the highlight of the day.

Eight grader Jacob Kirschbaum worked through the morning adjusting his ROV accordingly for each piece of the assignment before tossing it into the water.

“It’s more hands-on instead of just learning,” he said of the project. “It makes it a lot easier to learn when it’s a hands-on experience.”

Like Pickey, the project made Kirschbaum consider his future career path possibilities. His dad is a mechanical engineer, a road that Kirschbaum said he wouldn’t mind going down.

As an instructor, the best part for Anderson is watching the “light bulbs” go off in a student’s head, he said, whether it is getting the project to work by using critical thinking skills or opening up doors to future careers.

“Their eyes glow when they experience the fruits of all their work,” said Anderson.

At the end of the year, Anderson gives students the option to buy the ROVs for $20 to take home and practice with some more. He’s known students to toss them in the Puget Sound for testing, and some even putter around with the machines in hot tubs.

Usually, Anderson sells between a third and a half of the ROVs made by the students.