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RMS students build underwater ROVs

While studying a unit on oceans in their sixth-grade science classes, students at Russellville Middle School not only got to learn about how scientists explore the mysteries contained in the oceans’ depths but they also got hands-on experience on how this process takes place.
Sixth graders in Lee Brownell and Hugh Johnston’s science classes recently built underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROV) like the ones used to explore the Titanic and other objects beneath the seas.
Brownell said the students built these devices all on their own using SeaPerch ROV kits that were purchased through parent and student donations and a grant from the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and were actually able to test them out in a borrowed 300-gallon tank when they got them to work.
“It was great to see the expressions of the students’ faces when the project they had been working so hard on finally started doing what it was supposed to do,” Brownell said.
“We didn’t help them much at all. If they had a problem during the building process, we encouraged them to work it out and find a solution, which resulted in a great deal of satisfaction for the students once they had built a product that functioned and they knew they had accomplished it on their own.”
Brownell said the purpose of the project was two-fold because he wanted the students to learn how to work together as a team and he wanted to incorporate technology and engineering practices in the regular classroom setting in hopes that students would someday consider science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related fields.
“The students learned how to build the robots, learned tool safety and tool instruction so they could cut, solder and drill, and when the robots were built and tested, the students in each class competed against one another in a timed trial,” Brownell said.
“Most of these students have never used a tool or really built something themselves. In this project, the students broke into three groups – the ROV body, motors and controllers – and were responsible for building their part of the ROV, and they learned much more from that experience than I could ever teach them.
“I thought this project was worth the time to get the outcomes we got. You could see their excitement.”
Sixth grader Morgan Moon, 11, was the project leader for her class and she said she enjoyed doing an interactive project.
“I liked getting to work as a team and it was interesting to see if our ROV would really work,” she said.
“I’ve never made anything like this before and I didn’t really know if we could do it but it was fun once it actually worked.”
Alex Flores, 11, was in the control group and said he enjoyed learning how to solder.
“This made me more interested in science,” he said. “This is the first thing I’ve built on my own and I want to do more things like this.”