When we think of STEM, we generally think of the four main areas that it stands for: science, technology, engineering, and math. SeaPerch is a STEM-based, innovative underwater robotics program, or competition if you will, that teaches students all areas of STEM by incorporating all the different STEM fields into one competition such as Science (Physics and Marine Biology), Technology (Computer Aided Design and 3D Printing), Engineering (Marine Engineering), and Math (Applied Math).
SeaPerch is a program with a culminating competition organized and funded by Harmony Public Schools, The US Navy, and the Rice University School Mathematics Project, that provides the resources they need to build an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) in an in-school or out-of-school setting. This year's competition took place on March 5 at Houston Baptist University in the Bradshaw Fitness Center. RUSMP assists the SeaPerch Program by advertising the events, assisting in coordinating the meets, providing judges, and also facilitating awards and medals for the winning teams. Dr. Yetkin Yildirim, RUSMP’s Director of STEM Projects, has played an integral role in supporting SeaPerch’s initiative. Yildirim explained the endless possibilities of what SeaPerch has to offer. When asked about his opinion on the far-reaching benefits of exposing Harmony students to this opportunity early on, Yildirim stated that “STEM is important because it pervades every part of our lives. STEM activities like SeaPerch provide hands-on and minds-on lessons for the student. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past. STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators. By exposing students to STEM and giving them opportunities to explore STEM-related concepts such as SeaPerch, they develop a passion for it and the probability of them pursuing a job in a related STEM field increases.” This activity gives Harmony students the chance to compete in aquatic challenges designed to simulate real-world situations while strongly incorporating STEM concepts. SeaPerch’s main goal is to prepare students for future careers in water-based engineering fields. It not only gets them excited for what they might be working with in the future but also puts a fun kick to it with racing robots.
A interview with Suleyman Gecmenler, Harmony science teacher and one of the organizers of SeaPerch, reveals that the world is slowly developing, and regrettably, “the United States has fallen from 3rd to 17th in the world in the number of college graduates in engineering programs. In the U.S., only 5% of science degrees are awarded in engineering, as compared with 50% in China.” This shows that the education system isn’t as heavily caught up with other nations in this field of learning. If not addressed, the expected shortage of skilled workers could decrease the U.S.’s global competitiveness and may result in a lack of expertise in mission-critical areas. When we asked Gecmenler about what his observations were of the competitors’ performance, he replied that a few teams had dominated the awards given out. It seems that while some teams joined the competition to learn and gain experience in a variety of STEM fields, others really tried for promising outcomes, and did their best not only to understand the mechanics of underwater robotics but also to aim high and excel at every aspect of the competition.
A version of this narrative appeared in the April 28, 2020 issue of the Village / Southwest News (http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/html5/reader/production/defa...) and was written by: Rahime Camuz, Bahar Kose, Sueda Sevinc, and Seniha Elcik, Harmony Public Schools.