Field trips are a common tool for schools to help students expand their worldview. At Sant Bani School, examples of common field trips include the capitol building in Concord to learn about the Government, Strawbery Banke and the Manchester Millyard to learn about the region’s history, or local farms to learn about sustainability.
On May 11, the School’s third, fourth, and fifth grade students visited the University of New Hampshire’s Chase Ocean Engineering Laboratory to see the lab’s testing and research facilities; the trip complimented the group’s yearlong study of oceans in STEAMS class. Before arriving at Chase Lab, the group made one detour: UNH’s Swasey Pool, where their objective was to test the SeaPerch Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) they had constructed.
SBS students are grouped into three cohorts for STEAMS – grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 – and spend the year exploring and completing age-appropriate concepts and projects. Each cohort annually chooses a theme for the upcoming school year and builds a curriculum around that theme. After studying rivers in 2021-2022, the 3-5 STEAMS group selected oceans as the theme for the 2022-2023 school year and identified SeaPerch as a desired culminating project.
According to their website, SeaPerch “aims to reduce traditional barriers to participation in robotics programs and promotes opportunities to engage students and educators in inquiry-based learning with real-world applications. As an educational program, SeaPerch introduces students to basic engineering, design, and science concepts. As a fun hands-on project, SeaPerch engages students and fosters key 21st century skills including critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity.”
Students throughout the country utilize SeaPerch as a means to explore engineering and design. While the kits most commonly are assembled by students in grades 6-12, younger students may use them with appropriate assistance from adults for tasks such as drilling, soldering, and cutting PVC pipes. In this instance, the Portsmouth Naval Yard (PNY) completed the more complicated soldering for the SBS kits ahead of time. Additionally, a group of SBS parents and grandparents assisted students with these tasks. Thank you to Mike Kivikoski, Kim Duncan, Lisa Perfield, Trevor Lester, Michelle Carter, Susan Knower, and Dan Boynton for their assistance with various stages of the project.
Once a New Hampshire school expresses interest in constructing a SeaPerch ROV, the PNY supplies SeaPerch kits to the school for free and also loans the school tools such as PVC pipe cutters, drills, wire strippers, and soldering irons.
The next recommendation is to identify teachers who will complete an educational course and become project leaders. In the fall, SBS science teacher Jess Boynton and fifth grade teacher Eben Gannett traveled to the University of New Hampshire to take the educator leadership course and tour the university’s Chase Ocean Engineering Laboratory; the university has partnered with the PNY to serve as a testing center, and the state’s SeaPerch competition is held there.
Throughout the year, the 3-5 STEAMS students have been working on how to use the engineering design process and how to work collaboratively, often in the context of design challenges related to oceans.
The SeaPerch project combined each of those elements. Students first were placed into small groups Once in their groups, they received an assembly manual and a fully disassembled SeaPerch kit, which included parts for three subsystems: frame, thrusters, and controllers. From there, groups were tasked with following the step-by-step instructions and assembling the three subsystems into a completed ROV, performing tasks – with appropriate adult assistance – such as measuring and cutting the PVC pipe, drilling holes in the pipe, stripping and soldering wires to the motors, waterproofing the motors with wax, testing the motors, and troubleshooting if necessary.
After utilizing three, 90-minute class blocks to assemble the ROVs, students were ready to travel to UNH and test their creations. Students gathered around the pool with excited anticipation, eager to see the fruits of their work. The first objective was simple: to test their ROV’s functionality. Then, the more complex challenge was to guide their ROV through a hula hoop at the bottom of the pool. Many students learned the important lessons of trial-and-error and adaptability, as groups needed to make mid-test adjustments such as changing the buoyancy of their ROV, tightening joints, or reattaching motors during testing.
Following a morning testing their ROV creations in the pool, students spent the remainder of the trip touring the Chase Lab and learning about the lab’s tools and equipment before returning to Sanbornton. If the smiles seen in photos of the trip are an accurate indication, it is safe to say SBS students collectively gave the trip a five-star review.