Local students compete in underwater robotics competition

NOW: Local students compete in underwater robotics competition

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Over 120 Southeast Wisconsin kids are getting their hands dirty by building and operating underwater robots at the 5th Annual Milwaukee Navy League Wisconsin Regional SeaPerch Competition on Saturday, March 19.

"You make, like, a robot, and they go underwater [and] do these obstacle courses or mission courses. We also have to give a presentation with real engineers as judges and then compete against these other teams," said Civil Air Patrol Cadet Commander Derek Zeng.

Zeng was with one of thirty teams from local organizations and schools competing at Deer Creek Intermediate School's pool.

Each team builds a 'ROV' or Remotely Operated Vehicle that they control.

Teams raced their ROV through obstacles, completed tasks and presented their design process.

Melissa Haigh from Union Grove High School placed in the international competition in Maryland last year. She says she's applying what she learned there to improve her team's design.

"This year, we tried to keep a lot of the same design. The problem we had last year was balance because when it's a square, the fulcrum is, like, right in the middle," said Haigh.

"So, they're learning that in addition to a lot of stuff that they are unaware they're learning right now," said Navy League Milwaukee Stem Chair Eric Wolbach.

He says the 30 teams work from a kit provided to them and are allowed up to $25 in extra parts.

Custom designed 3D printed pieces and other accessories show off the teams' STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics skills, but he says there's more to it than just that.

"They're learning the people skills, too. So, they're learning how to work with somebody under a stressful situation. They're learning how to troubleshoot," said Wolbach.

Haigh says she knows she wants to be an engineer, but thanks to this, she knows it isn't just being smart.

"it teaches you a lot about working with other people and like matching your energies and understanding what they want and what you want and being able to communicate," said Haigh.

Zeng says his, and many other teams, worked months to be part of the competition today.

"It's great opportunity for high schools that come together and do really testing the engineering skills and then working as a team really builds bonds," said Zeng.

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