ROV Team Walks Away with a Second Place Win

  • Task #1: Install new instrumentation on an existing oceanic measuring node on the seafloor.
  • Task #2: Design, construct, and install a temperature sensor over a hydrothermal vent opening and measure temperature over time.
  • Task #3: Replace an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) on a mid-water column mooring platform.
  • Task #4: Remove biofouling from structures and instruments within the observatory

The tasks above aren’t your typical science and/or math class objectives. Instead, they are part of a mission assigned to 11 of Prairie’s upper school students this past December.

The ROV Robotics team led by Upper School Math & Science teacher, Richard Craig participated in Wisconsin’s Regional MATE International ROV Competition on March 17.  The MATE Center uses underwater robots – also known as remotely operated vehicles or ROVs – to teach science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and prepare students for technical careers. This year, the MATE competition challenged K-12, community college, and university students from all over the world to design and build ROVs to tackle missions modeled after scenarios from the ocean workplace.

This year’s competition welcomed six teams, including last year’s first place international winner from Ozaukee, WI. With a culmination of over 700 man hours, Prairie’s Seahawks walked away with a second place win this year.

“The path to success did not come easy for our students,” shared Mr. Craig. “Last year’s team consisted mainly of Seniors, so this was a year of rebuilding.  With consensus from the team, the group made additional technological advances to the ROV. A new tether with waterproof connectors rated to 10,000 feet were added along with two micro-controllers linked from land to water with motor controllers that would digitally control the speed and direction. In addition, a student designed waterproof robotic arm and cameras were added.”

Within days of the competition, the team struggled with a few last minute glitches. The team suffered the loss of a motor controller which could not be replaced in time. In addition, two underwater cameras were no longer in working condition.  Despite the last minute setbacks and inability to test the changes, the Seahawks were ready and willing to compete.

With months of preparation under their belts, the team anxiously walked onto the UW-Milwaukee campus ready to embark upon their mission.  Little did they realize, however, many life lessons were already learned. The ability to work as a team and problem solve situations that occur through real life underwater exploration isn’t necessarily taught in a classroom.

“Even though our ROV looked similar to last years, its creation forced some of our students to learn lessons available only to college students,” shared Mr. Craig. “This is my fourth year leading Prairie’s ROV team and each year I also walk away with new life lessons.  When the mission is released, it is my job to introduce new technologies. After a short while, I am able to take a backseat and serve as a mentor and guide. The students take full ownership of the project. The hands on learners are the most successful and those who want to tackle something, end up accomplishing a lot!.”

Congratulations Prairie Seahawks!

Corporate Sponsor: KOT Environmental Consulting, Inc.; Mentor: Kurt Thomsen; Coaches: Richard Craig & Mark Orlovsky; Student Team Members: Zachary Kant, Bobby Schulz, Erik Wirtz. Nick Schneider, Richard Doubek, Kaitlyn Koerner, MJ Koerner, Ellie Plachinski, Maria Feiler, Sandeep Reddy, Luke Trevino

Video and photos submitted by Ivan Barra Films.