Underwater robots 


Students learn STEM skills at SeaPerch Challenge

For Kayla Gaunt, a 16-year-old student at Bryant High School, the SeaPerch Challenge, an underwater robotics competition that took place last month in Bryant, was more than just another extracurricular activity.

“I actually want to be a marine biologist, so working underwater is kind of what I want to do,” Gaunt said, as she and her teammate waited for the 2020 challenge competition to begin at The Center at Bishop Park on March 6. “I thought this would be an interesting experience, and it would match where I am trying to go.”

Encouraging students like Gaunt to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM as it

Nearly 200 students from around the state competed in the 2020 SeaPerch Challenge on March 6 hosted by Arkansas 4-H and the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.

is commonly known, is the top goal of the SeaPerch program. In Arkansas, it is sponsored by Arkansas 4-H and the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. The 2020 competition drew a record 43 teams and 162 students, up from 25 teams last year.

“We plan to continue to work with our 17 member distribution cooperatives to grow this great STEM education program in our great state,” said Rob Roedel, director of corporate communications for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. “Our partnership with Arkansas 4-H combined with the growing interest by the member cooperatives should allow for tremendous growth of the SeaPerch program.”

Winning teams

Teams from Grant and Madison counties placed first out of the teams from 16 Arkansas counties at the event.

The winner of the junior division was the Madisygarjack team from Grant County. Team members included Sydney Miller, Jackson Friedman, Garrett Key and Madison Andrews. The senior division was won by the RoboClovers of Madison County. The team consisted of Westin Ball, Jesley Ball and Toby Whiteley. Another Madison County team, The Trumpinators, placed second in the junior division. Team members were Colton Edwards, Trevor Edwards and Brayden Krizan.

The winners were set to advance to the International SeaPerch Challenge in May at the University of Maryland, but it was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

L to R: Jackson Friedman, Madison Andrews, Garrett Key and Sydney Miller, members of the Madisygarjack team from Grant County, with their first-place trophy as the overall winner in the junior division. Buddy Hasten, president and CEO of the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, far right, presented the trophy. photo Rob Roedel

The SeaPerch is a remotely operated submersible built from more than three dozen parts, including PVC pipe, pool noodles, three 12-volt motors and batteries. The contest included:

  • Obstacle Course: Each team had a maximum of 10 minutes to try to make two runs through a series of five hoops, which were positioned 2 to 6 feet apart.
  • Mission Course: The mission of this competition was to simulate a waterway cleanup, complete with trash items that could be found in the world’s oceans and other waterways.
  • Technical Design Report: Teams had to prepare and present a report on the SeaPerch project, including technical and design issues.

To learn more about the SeaPerch initiative, visit  4h.uaex.edu/programs/science/engineering-technology/seaperch.aspx.

SeaPerch Challenge 2020 results

A two-person team navigates the challenge course to simulate a waterway trash cleanup.

International Qualifying Teams

Junior – Madisygarjack, Grant County
Junior – Trumpinators, Madison County
Senior – RoboClovers, Madison County

Junior Overall

1st Place: Madisygarjack, Grant County
2nd Place: Trumpinators, Madison County
3rd Place: Turbo Flare, Grant County

Senior Overall

1st Place: RoboClovers, Madison County

Students proudly display their SeaPerch while waiting to compete at the 2020 SeaPerch Challenge. photo Rob Roedel

2nd Place: Swimming Goats, Howard County
3rd Place: Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies, Grant County

Junior Technical Design Report

1st Place: Turbo Flare, Grant County
2nd Place: Trumpinators, Madison County
3rd Place: Robotic Bandits, Lawrence County

Senior Technical Design Report

1st Place: Swimming Goats, Howard County
2nd Place: Bryant High School, Saline County
3rd Place: RoboClovers, Madison County

Junior Presentation

1st Place: Bethel Middle School, Saline County
2nd Place: Madisygarjack, Grant County
3rd Place: Sea Cows, Grant County

A SeaPerch approaches one of several rings in the competition’s obstacle course.

Senior Presentation

1st Place: Crittenden Aquatics 1, Crittenden County
2nd Place: RoboClovers, Madison County
3rd Place: Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies, Grant County

Junior Obstacle Course

1st Place: Madisygarjack, Grant County
2nd Place: Poseidon, Grant County
3rd Place: Trumpinators, Madison County

Senior Obstacle Course

1st Place: RoboClovers, Madison County
2nd Place: Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies, Grant County
3rd Place: Swimming Goats, Howard County

Junior Mission Course

1st Place: Turbo Flare, Grant County
2nd Place: Bethel Middle School, Saline County
3rd Place: Poseidon, Grant County

Senior Mission Course

1st Place: War Sloths, Howard County
2nd Place: Crittenden Aquatics 1, Crittenden County
3rd Place: RoboClovers, Madison County