December 20, 2014  

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Mississippi Team Emerges as Winner of SeaPerch Competition

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Students from across the United States, Puerto Rico and New Zealand participated in the SeaPerch National Challenge May 17 in Hattiesburg at The University of Southern Mississippi. (Photo by Kelly Dunn)

The Magnolia State shined Saturday, May 17 against competitors from across the United States during the SeaPerch National Challenge, held on The University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus.

Some of the nation’s top middle and high school students put their science and engineering knowledge to the test during the underwater robotics competition. The event featured 125 teams of about eight members each, including students from Puerto Rico and New Zealand.

The “Gulf Coast Contenders Club” of Saucier, Miss. was the overall winner, the first from the South, followed by “Atlantis” of Charleston, S.C. and “Submersibles” of Egg Harbor Township, N.J. Mississippi was also represented by teams from Oak Grove, Madison, D’Iberville, Ocean Springs and Starkville.

Dr. Bridgette Davis, an assistant professor of science education at LSU and a Southern Miss graduate, served as a consultant for her hometown Saucier team. Davis is also director of the Gulf Coast Regional Sea Perch Challenge and was instrumental in getting the national competition to Hattiesburg.

"For me personally, it was actually a prayer of mine to bring this (competition) to USM, and then to have the team from your hometown win the whole thing, nothing could be sweeter," Davis said.  

SeaPerch Executive Director Susan Nelson said the event was a success and praised the university’s staff and facilities. “We could not be more thrilled with how things went with this year’s SeaPerch competition,” she said. “The whole day was the best we’ve experienced. The hospitality was outstanding and everyone just bent over backwards to assist us, and I think the kids really enjoyed the college dorm experience.”

Held at the university’s Payne Center and M.C. Johnson Natatorium, the competition featured assembly and deployment of SeaPerches, which are underwater ROVs (remotely operated vehicle) built from a kit. Participating teams demonstrated the capabilities of the SeaPerches they built as they navigated underwater obstacle courses. The competition also included displays of posters and oral presentations about the teams’ design philosophy and construction challenges before a panel of judges.

Cody Conyers, a student at St. Martin High School, participated as the “driver” for his SeaPerch ROV. He said the biggest challenge in putting together the team’s Sea Perch was creating an ROV that would stand out from the others. The team decided on an ROV resembling the U.S.S. Enterprise from the “Star Trek” television/movie series.

“You want to make something that just blows everyone’s mind, and you never know where you might get your inspiration,” said Conyers, who wants to pursue a career in aerospace engineering.

The annual SeaPerch competition is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) and managed by The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Foundation

For a complete listing of winners, and to learn more about SeaPerch, visit http://www.seaperch.org/seaperch_challenge.