Students launch subs at robotics challenge

The winning teams from John Gray and Layman E. Scott High School celebrate with organizers and coaches. – PHOTO: MAGGIE JACKSON

Young engineers from John Gray High School continued their winning streak at the SeaPerch science and technology challenge Saturday.

Now an annual fixture of the school calendar, the competition challenges science students to build a remotely operated submersible vehicle from a kit and adapt it to complete a series of challenges.

Saturday’s event at the Camana Bay pool was the culmination of months of effort for 21 teams from seven schools on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. In the run-up to the day, students spent time after school working on their designs and testing their vehicles.

On Saturday, they had to race them through an obstacle course in a timed challenge and complete maneuverability exercises, picking up blocks and rings and moving them from one platform to another.

The teams were judged on their times in the challenges, as well as their engineering notebooks, which document the work they have done and demonstrate their understanding of the scientific concepts involved.

John Gray’s Aqua Lasers Too team were the overall victors and the winners in the Middle School division. The Layman E. Scott High School Brac Bots won the high school competition.

John Gray’s Diamond White and Davonte Howell celebrate after clocking the fastest time on the obstacle course. – PHOTOS: JAMES WHITTAKER

Both teams will represent Cayman in June at the SeaPerch International Competition at the University of Massachusetts.

The event is sponsored by Dart’s Minds Inspired program, which provides funding for the ROV kits and hosted Saturday’s competition, and Maples, which funds the trip for the winning teams to compete in Massachusetts.

The Cayman branch of the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association also provided support and volunteers. Glenda McTaggart, program manager of Minds Inspired, said the competition emphasized teamwork and sportsmanship, as well as scientific concepts.

“There are a lot of skills involved. They learn how to solder, pack PVC pipe [and] how to wire things to create a control box. It is also a lot of fun.”

Emily Jervis and Emma Maddock, of the Cayman Prep & High School team, get ready to relaunch their ROV.

Desmond White, science teacher at John Gray, which saw all three of its teams win or place on the podium, said, “It is a wonderful feeling to see the hard work that they have put in pay off for them.”

He said SeaPerch was generating enthusiasm for science and helping his students see the big picture.

“They are getting a chance to see some of the concepts they are learning in science class work in practice.

Von Ryan Abrantes, a physics teacher at St. Ignatius High School, which had six teams in the competition, agreed.

“Engineering is not really part of the curriculum, so it is good to apply theoretical science to something more tangible.”