RAPME Students Build Underwater Robots
A group of more than 135 middle and high school students, with an interest in engineering, have been studying at Virginia State and Virginia Commonwealth Universities for the past several weeks.
The students are part of a six week summer session sponsored by the Richmond Area Program for Minorities in Engineering.
Scott: The whole program for the summer is six weeks: it's three weeks at VSU; three weeks at VCU. So, each school has three weeks to build, to see ?? actually learn about different things about engineering, and learn about motors, learn about circuits and how they actually work; not just build them and just doing it just to do it.
Christopher Scott is a junior studying Mechanical Engineering and Technology at Virginia State and he is the Phase 3 teacher this summer. It was clear that with temperatures pushing triple digits, the students didn’t mind being in class at all. Their classroom yesterday was the pool at the Petersburg YMCA.
Scott: This summer we're dealing with oceanography, different types of engineering, such as naval, maritime engineering. That's our focus for this summer, but, every summer we do something different.
Scott, a research assistant at VSU for the Executive Director of RAP ME, Dr. Gymama Slaughter, explained that in this final phase of their summer work, the students have constructed robots, using pvc pipe and small motors, that they can control underwater.
Scott: This summer we gave some students the opportunity to learn how to scuba dive, also to get certified.
Next stop for the budding engineers and the robots they call Sea Perches, is Lake Rollins.
Scott: Lake Rollins in Nottaway County, they're going to use the Sea Perches they built, they're going to maneuver them, practice with them and, actually next week at the closing ceremony for the program, they're actually going to race them.
Kieran Wilkinson, a Motoaca High School student, was enjoying learning to scuba. He explained the sea perch construction relates to a news story that involves dozens of engineers.
Wilkinson: Well, the Sea Perch, it was pretty much designed based off the BP oil spill and how they have the ROVs down there with the cameras and stuff looking down and trying to give us information on what was the problem. So, we pretty much based our Sea Perch off of that desgn.
Wilkinson said he knows he’s built a good Sea Perch--it works.
Wilkinson: There's three motors: there's one going this way, one going this way and there's one on top. So, on the control box, there's a switch that you push up for the right motor, and you push left for the left motor and then there's a button on the other side that operates the top motor. So, pretty much, in order to go down or whatever, you just hold down onto the bottom motor and it'll sink down. And, to rise back up, you pretty much going to push both the left and right motors back and you're going to push the top motor, as well, so that it'll float up.
Scott explained that RAP ME was started in 1977.
Scott: Well, I think this program's very important; I think it's a good opportunity for them to get interested in it early. They get that confidence early, so, when they get to college, it'll be easy for them. So, once they get to college, they already know about circuits and motors and how different things like that work. Learning about something--as long as you know the basics of something, you can easily learn it.
You can find out more about the Richmond Area Program for Minorities in Engineering on line at RAPME dot ORG.