El Monte, South El Monte High Schools Come Out on Top at SeaPerch Competition

Anne Donofrio-Holter

Congratulations to South El Monte and El Monte High Schools for their first place wins at SeaPerch earlier this month aboard the USS Iowa in San Pedro.
SeaPerch is “an innovative underwater robotics program that equips teachers and students with the resources they need to build an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in an in-school or out-of-school setting.  Students build the ROV from a kit comprised of low-cost, easily accessible parts, following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme.  The SeaPerch program provides students with the opportunity to learn about robotics, engineering, science and mathematics (STEM), while building an underwater ROV as part of a science and engineering technology curriculum.”
While the SeaPerch program has been implemented on the east coast, this marks its debut on the west coast under the direction of Navy LCDR Anthony “Air” Tran.
“The SeaPerch ROV is one of the Navy’s signature outreach programs and the ultimate goal is to generate awareness and interest in STEM so students may decide to pursue careers in technical, scientific and research fields that will fill positions critical to the safety and security of the United States,” said Tran.
Students were given the task of designing an aquatic robot that could maneuver under water and complete specific tasks, such as collecting rings.  At the competition, the teams were given five minutes to complete their tasks.
South El Monte High School won the overall robot competition in two minutes and 35 seconds and El Monte High School the Overall Teamwork Achievement Award for interview skills and teamwork.
More than 20 schools participated, including Arroyo High School.  Each school had to have a teacher sponsor and at least five students to participate.
The teachers attended training sessions last year and had the opportunity to build a robot as part of their training.  Training expenses, as well as ROV kits and tools were covered by the Navy.  Each school was allowed only an additional $20 of its own to the building of the robot.  The student teams met regularly to prepare and build their ROVs and Tran made several visits to campus, even arranging for a female admiral to speak to the students.
“At the competition, the students were quick to make revisions to their robots after the one practice run and were provided supplies for repairs and revisions,” said El Monte High School Principal Keith Richardson. “To see them work, plan and then explain why the revisions were needed was amazing.  I wish we had such opportunities when I was in high school.”
“SeaPerch made science hands-on and fun for the students,” said South El Monte High School Principal Angie Gonzales.  “They were exposed to engineering concepts, problem solving, teamwork and technical applications.”
“It was a joy to work with the El Monte Union High School District.  Its leadership, from the superintendent to principals and teachers, are supportive and willing to embrace new STEM projects for their students,” said Tran.  “They seized the opportunity to bring in a new program and partnership that would ultimately benefit the students with regard to higher education.  Programs like SeaPerch would not be successful without their leadership and vision.”
El Monte Union High School District Board of Trustees members Sal Ramirez and Maria-Elena Talamantes, along with superintendent Nick Salerno, were in attendance to support the students.
Added Tran, “I’m glad to have formed this partnership in the program’s pilot year and I look forward to expanding it to more schools from this district.”
“SeaPerch was a great event for students and staff and we thank the Navy for this partnership that provides activities that promote STEM education,” said Salerno.  “Our students were very excited to participate and this excitement resulted in a positive educational experience for all and the capturing of major awards at the competition.”

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