PEYTON, Colo. (Feb. 23, 2013) – While controlling an underwater remotely operated vehicle, Te’shon Dickens carefully collected submerged items, confident of his wiring and waterproofing. His team spent more than a month configuring the device.

“This is pretty awesome – making and controlling your own submarine,” said 12-year-old Dickens, standing beside a pool Feb. 22 at Woodmen Hills Recreation Center in Peyton. He’s not a marine robotics technician. He’s a seventh grader at nearby Patriot Learning Center.

“This is the best project I’ve ever done in my life,” said Dickens, after collecting 12 rings during a SeaPerch recovery course, netting 18 points. Across the water, students navigated their configurations of tubes, motors, and wires through a timed obstacle course’s hoops.

Dozens of sixth, seventh and eighth graders surrounded the pool, arriving from Patriot Learning Center. The school provides an alternative for Falcon School District 49’s at-risk students, children who statistically fail academically in traditional learning environments.

Science teacher Paul Austin says it’s important to get students out of the classroom. From advanced placement to at-risk youth, a hands-on approach “levels the playing field,” he said, suggesting a focus on applied learning to eliminate the intimidation of tests.

“I don’t hear ‘is this going to be on the test?’ anymore,” said Austin. Last year, he introduced the Wolbachia Project to Falcon High School and Patriot Learning Center. Students analyzed DNA in arthropod cells, measuring the frequency of destructive bacteria.

“What better way to teach them physical science than doing it?” said Austin, who received a $1,600 grant from the Office of Naval Research for 10 SeaPerch kits. “It’s not threatening, there’s no classroom pressure. Even the quiet kids are coming up and saying, ‘let me try.’”

“This is hands-on, getting them excited about learning,” he said, during the SeaPerch challenge. The day’s event culminated a marine-themed curriculum that covered the basics of engineering and science.

“It’s sort of a challenge and celebration at the same time.”

After obtaining 10 SeaPerch kits last fall, Austin started coordinating the final event for February. Challenger Learning Center of Colorado supported his project by sending two more kits, an investment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It’s mainly about engineering,” said Austin, explaining that engineers are in demand, and educators must get young teens excited about the related occupations. “If I get a kid in middle school excited now, maybe they’ll go into that career field.”

The students split into 12 groups. Using a SeaPerch, they studied submarine design, soldering, propulsion, buoyancy, displacement and electrical circuits and switches. They designed and painted team T-shirts.

“I enjoyed putting it together – I did the motors and built the structure,” said eighth grader Jake Jensen, 14, during the recovery course. “It’s the getting the rings part that’s hard. I’ve got eight so far, but my partner is getting the rest of them.”

Jensen won the SeaPerch challenge with eight grader Mackenzie Kerr, 13, and seventh grader Megan Gomez, 13.

“If something really stood out for me, it was the teamwork,” said Austin. “Seeing the teams work together is huge. In real life, they’re going to have to learn to work together, even if they don’t like each other. They’re learning life lessons.”

“I’ve never done anything like this in any other school,” said Dickens, summing up his entire experience as “amazing.”


Story by Dustin Senger
Falcon School District 49
Digital Communications Specialist

Attached Photos:

130222-600 – Seventh grader Ty Bergstrom, 14, places his SeaPerch underwater vehicle into a pool Feb. 22 at Woodmen Hills Recreation Center in Peyton, Colo. He had waxed the motors and built the frame. Dozens of students, sixth-eighth graders, had teamed up to configured 12 of the underwater remotely operated vehicles, ahead of a SeaPerch challenge. They attend Patriot Learning Center in Falcon School District 49, an alternative to traditional educational environments for at-risk students.

121112-858 – Petty Officer 1st Class Stuart Simpson of Navy Recruiting District Denver meets with a seventh and eighth grade science class Nov. 12 at Patriot Learning Center in Falcon School District 49. Simpson, a hull maintenance technician, discussed his military career, as the students finished waterproofing motors for a SeaPerch challenge. The robotics program uses underwater remotely operated vehicles to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

130222-642 – Seventh grader Te’shon Dickens, 12, controls his SeaPerch underwater vehicle Feb. 22 at Woodmen Hills Recreation Center in Peyton, Colo. He had waterproofed the motors and wiring. Dozens of students, sixth-eighth graders, had teamed up to configured 12 of the underwater remotely operated vehicles, ahead of a SeaPerch challenge. They attend Patriot Learning Center in Falcon School District 49, an alternative to traditional educational environments for at-risk students.

130222-512 – Petty Officer 1st Class James Marshall of Navy Recruiting District Denver holds a SeaPerch underwater vehicle Feb. 22 at Woodmen Hills Recreation Center in Peyton, Colo. Marshall, a nuclear submarine technician, was visiting students, sixth-eighth graders, who had teamed up to configured 12 of the underwater remotely operated vehicles, ahead of a SeaPerch challenge. They attend Patriot Learning Center in Falcon School District 49, an alternative to traditional educational environments for at-risk students.

130222-609 – Seventh grader Dominic Streeks, 14, controls his SeaPerch underwater vehicle Feb. 22 at Woodmen Hills Recreation Center in Peyton, Colo. He had soldered the electronics and built the remote. Dozens of students, sixth-eighth graders, had teamed up to configured 12 of the underwater remotely operated vehicles, ahead of a SeaPerch challenge. They attend Patriot Learning Center in Falcon School District 49, an alternative to traditional educational environments for at-risk students.

130222-710 – Eighth grader Jake Jensen, 14, controls his SeaPerch underwater vehicle Feb. 22 at Woodmen Hills Recreation Center in Peyton, Colo. He had worked on the motors and structure. Dozens of students, sixth-eighth graders, had teamed up to configured 12 of the underwater remotely operated vehicles, ahead of a SeaPerch challenge. They attend Patriot Learning Center in Falcon School District 49, an alternative to traditional educational environments for at-risk students.

Tags: STEM, academics, aeronautical, astronautical, civil., electrical, elementary, engineering, mechanical, navy, More…physics, school, students, submarines

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