All eyes are focused on an underwater scene, a group of people monitoring a small, nimble object a few feet beneath the dappled surface of a pool. The object is a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), and the people are a part of the Police Activities League of Egg Harbor Township and Atlantic County (EHT PAL).
We, the Enforcers, are the team standing at the edge of the water, and whether our pool is that of the Seaview Country Club and Hotel, the Annapolis Naval Academy, or the University of Maryland, College Park, we are always ready for a challenge. EHT PAL has multiple successful and educational robotics branches, including Team 7149 (the Enforcers), who participated in this year’s FirstTech Challenge. In contrast to the FTC team, our team opts for a task in the water rather than on the land: SeaPerch.
SeaPerch is an underwater robotics program which aims to equip elementary, middle, and high school students with science and engineering knowledge in a collaborative and competitive environment. Students and coaches are provided with a basic ROV kit, and are tasked with altering the ROV to fit the needs of a yearly challenge. Teams can then take the ROV to a regional competition, which take place around the globe, and if they see success there, they are invited to the International SeaPerch Challenge, which takes place in colleges along the East Coast and includes hundreds of international schools and clubs.
The EHT PAL SeaPerch team was started in 2013 by coaches Denise and Mike Massey, and saw multiple successes throughout the years, and 2023 was their tenth year participating in the program. This season’s challenge was ocean exploration: “mapping” the seafloor, moving “sea critters,” activating a target flag, and transporting a water sample. Along with that was the obstacle course, a row of variously positioned hoops that the ROV had to weave through. The 2023 team consisted of four students from three different schools across Atlantic County - two drivers and two tetherers.
The EHT PAL ROV is designed to swim like a fish, allowing for more smooth maneuverability, and utilizes 3 motors (vertical, left, and right). A tether is attached to the ROV, which needs constant attention to avoid getting tangled and wasting time. This year, we ended up creating a y-shaped hook made of CPVC and 3d-printing a motor guard to protect our vertical motor from the sea critters. Our flotation was also uniquely different: we used black ADS pipe inside two film canisters to create adjustable, sturdy buoyancy that wouldn’t be damaged by water pressure or constant use.
This year, the team attended regionals at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, displayed their talent through successful challenge and obstacle course runs, and were selected along with two other teams to attend the International SeaPerch Challenge held at University of Maryland, College Park. To apply to internationals, we also had to create a team video and a technical design report about our team and our ROV. After the dust had settled, the Enforcers of EHT PAL had placed 2nd in the team video and 3rd overall in the world.
We are excited to see what the future holds for this team, and any teams who continue after it, and hopefully, SeaPerch will continue to inspire other local students to dive deep into the world of engineering and sciences.