Folger McKinsey Elementary Students Prepare To Show Off Underwater Robots


At the end of May, the Naval Academy hosted a showcase for nine Folger McKinsey Elementary School students to display their underwater SeaPerch robots.

The international educational program introduces students to engineering concepts by providing parts and guides for building remotely operated vehicles out of materials including PVC and pool noodles.

The SeaPerch program is available to any Anne Arundel County public school that chooses to participate. Fourth-grade teacher Jen Lee restarted the program at Folger after the teacher who brought it to the school, Sue Grieve, moved to Texas. Lee’s kids, now in their 20s, built SeaPerch robots when they went to Folger.

Lee believes that SeaPerch cultivates students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“I wanted to go ahead and revitalize this program because I think STEM is such an engaging way to teach some real-world skills to kids,” Lee said.

The students signed up or messaged Lee to join. Parents of the selected students needed to volunteer to assist the kids as they built the robots.

The pieces are not premade, so students needed to use tools to build each component, guided by the kit’s manual.

“I really liked the soldering because we melted the metal onto the circuit board,” Folger McKinsey student Christian Milbury said.

Despite the robots’ simple design, there was room for creativity and personalization.

“Our team’s SeaPerch was named the Salty Sea Monster, and it had many different colors and designs on it,” student Annabel Lay said.

The other two teams’ vessels were named The Elemental and U.V. (Uncrewed Vessel) Minnow.

The teams were scheduled to visit the Naval Academy to show their robots to midshipmen, test them in a pool and participate in other STEM activities on May 31. To prepare, they took the robots to the pool at the Severna Park Fitness and Racquetball Club.

“It was kind of hard to see how it worked because it didn’t really work up and down, and you had to figure out how the controls worked,” Lucia Demi said.

The kids also learned troubleshooting skills. When Edison Kondo’s team cut some wires incorrectly, they learned to try different methods to fix it.

“We eventually learned that we could solder two wires together to make it work again,” Edison said.

Working in teams taught the students how to compromise.

“When we did drawing, we added the features we all wanted,” Harry Graham said. “But sometimes that didn’t work out and we would have to eliminate one of the features. We would just talk and talk until we figured it out.”

It also gave them a different outlook on mechanical projects.

“Usually, if I saw that something was broken, I’d think ‘Oh, that’s a problem,’” said Maggie Meredith. “Now, I look at it and find out what the problem actually is.”


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