JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Sailors with Navy Recruiting District San Antonio at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston and Navy City Outreach Southwest teamed up with the University of the Incarnate Word in providing SeaPerch (underwater robotics) Day at the Ann Barshop Natatorium during a miniGEMS (Girls in Engineering, Math and Sciences) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Camp June 8.
More than 30 middle-school girls from the San Antonio and Judson Independent School Districts participated in the SeaPerch Day, which is part of the 10-day STEM camp.
This is UIW’s third year sponsoring MiniGEMS.
According to Dr. Michael Frye, UIW assistant professor of engineering, the school extended the length of the camp from five to 10 days.
“Based upon student and parent reviews, students wanted to stay at the camp longer, and one of the primary reasons was SeaPerch,” Frye said.
Frye said the purpose of the mini-GEMS Camp is to increase the number of female students who want to study engineering or STEM in general.
“What we found out were activities that are very hands on, very engaging, with some competition, always keeps the students really focused and SeaPerch fits that requirement,” Frye said. “SeaPerch also allows us to teach students science, math and engineering without lecturing to them which allows them to learn basic marine principles such as buoyancy and pressure.”
During the day, the girls assembled their remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, in a group setting and maneuvered them through an obstacle and challenge course.
Hannah Zatorski, a sixth-grader with Elolof Elementary School, said she had been interested in science since the second grade.
“I like the thought of building things, especially robotics,” Zatorski said. “And miniGEMS provides me with experience and teaches me how to build robotics while having fun doing it.”
According to Zatorski, since the technology exists to build regular robotics, we can go further with building underwater robotics, especially to explore the ocean. She also said it was awesome having the Navy help them.
Isabel Lanford, a sixth-grade teacher with Mission Academy, became interested the camp in 2015 and was invited to be involved the following year.
She recalled attending UIW for her master’s degree and being at a Super Saturday Class where Frye was one of the coordinators.
One of her classmates approached Frye and asked him to have middle schools involved for a robotics camp during the summer. Frye agreed and later that year, UIW coordinated the first miniGEMS camp.
“It’s wonderful for large organization, such as the Navy, to be involved in their education,” Lanford said. “It’s important because when the children become adults, it all becomes relevant to them and they learn how to trust that organization and more than likely become more involved.”
According to Lanford, Mission Academy received a $30,000 grant for its STEM program, which included purchasing EV3 Robotics and SeaPerch kits along with a mini-pool.
“The kids love underwater robotics; once they hear underwater robotics, their eyes light up,” Lanford said.
NRD San Antonio attended the mini-camp with all-female recruiters.
“We wanted the young ladies to see that there are females who have attained careers in the STEM fields,” said Chief Petty Officer Isabel Guerrero, Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps coordinator for NRD San Antonio. “It was an honor for us to be here and represent America’s Navy.”
“I think it is important for the girls to know that they have women to look up to and to emulate,” said Guerrero, a San Antonio native. “They need to know that STEM jobs are not only geared towards men, but women as well.”
The Office of Naval Research is one of the primary sponsors of the SeaPerch program and it is managed by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, or AUVSI, Foundation.
SeaPerch is an innovative underwater robotics program that equips teachers and students with the resources they need to build an underwater ROV in an in-school or out-of-school setting.
Students build the ROV from a kit comprised of low-cost, easily accessible parts, following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme.
UIW will be hosting three additional mini-GEMS Camps in June and July.