SOUTH FORSYTH — Many schools field robotics teams to supplement their STEM programs, but some middle schools in Forsyth County are taking the competition arena a step further.
The second annual SeaPerch endeavor, an underwater robotics competition, will be held at the Forsyth YMCA, 6050 Y Street, from 2-6 p.m. Saturday. The event is open to the public.
Between 25 and 35 students from South Forsyth Middle, Piney Grove Middle, a middle school from Franklin County and possibly others will be participating, according to Emil Decker, ITS and robotics advisor at South.
“SeaPerch is a STEM-based [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] initiative sponsored by the U.S. Navy,” Decker said. “Students create and build an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from commonly available parts.”
These parts can be PVC, small motors, film canisters, wiring and swim noodles, for example. They build and test them throughout a few weeks before competing, he said.
Robotics programs have been growing in popularity in recent years as a fun and realistic way to entice young students to technology. South Forsyth Middle has more than 100 kids in its robotics club, Decker said.
This event is not part of the Vex IQ program, which holds competitions throughout the school year.
“When that’s over, people start turning their thoughts to shorts and swimming and summer,” Decker said, “so we turn our robotic thoughts towards underwater robots.”
Hand-built robots must drive through the water to collect rings for points.
“Too many kids, I believe, think after coming through a robotics program that robots are a kit you put together and that’s it,” he said. “I want them to go home and say I can use this concept to problem solve and build robots with anything they can find at home.”