UW News

July 27, 2016

Middle schoolers build underwater robot in science summer camp

UW News

Alexander Riley works on the ROV during summer camp.

Alexander Riley works on the ROV during summer camp.University of Washington

Middle school students tried their hands at designing and building underwater robots this week during a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration science summer camp in Seattle.

The remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) project was designed by UW undergraduate student Hannah McConnaughey, who has built ROVs competitively since she was in middle school.

“Hands-on science is great because it’s something students are excited about and can interact with personally, and it has real world applications,” she said.

Underwater robots increasingly are used in a number of marine industry and research applications, such as studying undersea volcanoes or installing sensors on the sea floor. Cables connect an ROV to a vessel at the surface, allowing the robot to be remotely navigated by someone onboard the ship.

UW undergraduate student Hannah McConnaughey works with students during camp.

The UW’s Hannah McConnaughey instructs¬†students during camp.University of Washington

At summer camp, 19 middle school students from the Puget Sound region built a miniature ROV capable of simple tasks. They learned how to solder, wire switches, create a control panel and hook up a motor.

They also learned concepts of buoyancy, thrust and electricity. For many of the students, this was their first experience with underwater robot technology, McConnaughey said.

McConnaughey co-founded the student group Atlantis STEAM, an offshoot of her high school robotics team from Whidbey Island. The group focuses on hands-on science education and encouraging gender equality in STEM fields.

The ROV workshop at the middle school camp was a joint project by UW-based Washington Sea Grant, NOAA and Atlantis STEAM.