John Gray students win robotics challenge

Students from across the Cayman Islands competed in an underwater robotics challenge on Saturday. The teams were tasked with building and operating a remotely operated vehicle to complete a series of tasks in the pool of the Beach Suites hotel as part of the SeaPerch Challenge, a U.S.-based schools challenge to inspire youngsters to take an interest in science and technology. Pictured operating their ROV are, from left, Allie Rodrigues and Chris Touhey of Cayman Prep. The overall winners of the competition were the John Gray Bolts. For full story, see page 2. - Photo: Lance Parthe

A team from John Gray High School triumphed Saturday in a science and technology challenge to build and operate a remote submersible vehicle.

The teams were required to complete an underwater obstacle course to demonstrate their ROV’s manouverability. – PHOTO: LANCE PARTHE
The teams were required to complete an underwater obstacle course to demonstrate their ROV’s manouverability. – PHOTO: LANCE PARTHE

Seven teams from five schools across Grand Cayman competed in the first SeaPerch Challenge at the Beach Suites hotel on Saturday.

Students were tasked, over the past month, with building a remotely operated vehicle from a kit and adapting it to perform a series of challenges.

The event, sponsored by Maples and Calder, culminated Saturday with the teams tasked with completing two in-pool events, an underwater obstacle course and sprint challenge to demonstrate their vehicles’ finesse and maneuverability.

The teams also displayed posters and gave presentations detailing their efforts over the past few weeks.

The John Gray team of Jai Dixon-McKenzie, Najae Gordon, John Tatum, Zeb Yanez-Bush and Ethan Stewart, known as the Bolts, won the overall award and go forward to compete with the best underwater robotics teams from across the United States at Louisiana State University.

“It feels amazing,” said Jai, 15, the team captain and boat pilot. “We’ve been working every day at lunch time and after school. We’ve learned a lot about how to build ROVs and working together as a team.”

Their teacher, Desmond White, said he was proud of the boys’ efforts.

A team from Cayman Prep, the Squad Bots, won the award for the most innovative design, and another team from the same school, the Prep School Parrots, won the best presentation award.

Kaneesa Ebanks-Wilson, an associate at Maples and Calder and one of the event organizers, said it was inspiring to see so many students excited and interested in science and technology.

“We could not be more thrilled with how everything went. It was such a rewarding experience to watch the seven teams from various local high schools put their science and engineering knowledge to the test during the underwater robotics competition.”

Similar regional competitions have been held all over the United States as part of a curriculum-based challenge that teaches students basic skills in ship and submarine design.

The winning team, John Gray Bolts: Zeb Yanez-Bush, Jai Dixon-McKenzie, Ethan Stewart, John Tatum and Najae Gordon. – PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER
The winning team, John Gray Bolts: Zeb Yanez-Bush, Jai Dixon-McKenzie, Ethan Stewart, John Tatum and Najae Gordon. – PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER

The competition was brought to the Cayman Islands for the first time this year through a partnership between Maples and Calder and the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association.

Christen Suckoo, chief officer in the Ministry of Education, said he was proud of all the participants and very happy with the performances of teams from John Gray and UCCI.

“The John Gray victory should serve as a reminder to all of us that while, as in other systems, we have not yet resolved all of the issues we face, these issues are not representative of the public school student body as a whole, most of whom are hard-working, dedicated students who are capable of performing at the highest level.”

The competition follows a series of free seminars hosted for more than 260 students from various local schools given by SeaPerch Executive Director Susan Nelson and Naval Surface Warfare Center electrical engineer Bill Porter.

Saturday’s challenge also involved teams from Hope Academy and Triple C.

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