Teams from Grant, Howard and Johnson counties have earned a place at the international SeaPerch Competition at the University of Maryland on June 1-2 after placing in the top two spots in the junior and senior divisions of the regional SeaPerch competition.
Twenty-four teams, plus parents, family, volunteers and 4-H staff and others filled the Bishop Park Aquatic Center on Saturday.
“We had well over 100 people – probably closer to 150 – in attendance,” said Lori Canada, 4-H development coordinator for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “All of our competitors did a fantastic job during Saturday’s event. We think we may have even more teams competing next year as a result of this year’s SeaPerch challenge.”
This year’s competition theme was Mission: Rescue & Recovery, inspired by the rescue of a soccer team in a cave in Thailand. For the SeaPerch competition, youth must build their own remotely controlled submersible. They must document their work and be ready to give a presentation about their engineering and show their engineering notebook, in addition to sailing their underwater craft through obstacle courses to complete specific tasks.
Two Grant County junior teams, Speedy Gonzalez and The Titanic Crew, both coached by County Extension Staff Chair Brad McGinley, and his wife, Serena, a teacher at Sheridan Intermediate School, and her colleague, sixth-grade teacher Debbie Bowen, earned spots at the international competition.
Representing Arkansas in the senior category are Howard County Team 1, composed of a trio of brothers and coached by their mom, Lisa Trombley, Chris Woodruff and Samantha Kroll, county extension agent; and Johnson County’s JC Atlantis.
This will be the third time JC Atlantis will go to the international competition. The team’s duo earned a spot in the junior division last year, and this year moves up to the senior division.
“My two girls on the senior team have competed since Arkansas started participating in the SeaPerch contest qualifying and attending nationals three times: at Louisiana State University, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and now the University of Maryland,” said Jeanie Rowbotham, Johnson County extension agent for the Division of Agriculture. “I, and coaches Scott and Michelle Loving, and these girls have worked very hard to prepare for this competition.”
Jean Ince, Howard County extension staff chair for the Division of Agriculture said that this year was “the first time Howard County has competed in SeaPerch. We are so proud of how our teams competed. They learned a lot and look forward to competing again.”
Of the Howard County team, “they are still on cloud nine and cannot believe they won the contest,” Kroll said, adding that for one of the brothers, “this is his main interest … and to see the change it has made in him is huge.”
It’s also the third year in a row for a Grant County team to go to the big competition. Last year, Sheridan Junior High competed in the open division.
“I like how the SeaPerch program teaches critical thinking skills, teamwork, and the engineering design process with real world applications,” said Brad McGinley, Grant County extension staff chair for the Division of Agriculture. “I love to see these students be able to take their concepts and bring them to life and have no doubt that we are developing some future engineers.”
This year’s regional competition was sponsored by the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, which also filmed the underwater action with two 4K cameras.
“The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas appreciate our partnership with Arkansas 4-H to promote the SeaPerch program in Arkansas. We will continue to help grow the Arkansas SeaPerch program to create STEM-based educational opportunities for the youth of Arkansas,” said Rob Roedel, director of corporate communications at Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.
Overall Winners – Junior category
Overall Winners – Senior category
Presentation Winners – Junior
Presentation Winners – Senior
Engineering Notebook Winners – Junior
Engineering Notebook Winners – Senior
Obstacle Course Winners – Junior
Obstacle Course Winners – Senior
Challenge Course Winners – Junior
Challenge Course Winners – Senior
“I’d like to give a huge thank you to Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas and Rob Roedel for their support, along with Bryant Parks and Recreation for allowing us to use their facilities and staff for the day,” Canada said. “It was a great place for the competition and had a great staff to help out throughout the day.”
To learn more about SeaPerch, see https://www.seaperch.org/challenge
University of Arkansas, by Mary Hightower. Cover photo by Lori Canada
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