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Bohatch, Ennis training at Dauphin Island for underwater robotics

Madison students involved with robotics prepare their equipment for competition. (CONTRIBUTED)
Madison students involved with robotics prepare their equipment for competition. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Greg Ennis and Carol Bohatch will study underwater robotics at Dauphin Island to launch a club at James Clemens High School.

They will attend the Deep-C Marine Technology Workshop on July 7-11 at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. “I volunteered because it’s necessary for two teachers to attend training for students to compete,” Bohatch, a chemistry teacher, said. “I don’t want to deny students the opportunity.”

“Students brought the idea from Liberty Middle School,” Ennis said. He teaches engineering and honors physics. “They had been successful in the SeaPERCH robotics program” with sponsor Nate Pahman.

The Liberty team earned second place at regional competition and fifth place nationally. “Students wanted to take it up a notch” with remotely operated vehicles (ROV), sponsored by the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center, Ennis said about the more intensive setup.

The technology corresponds to current-day scenarios, like British Petroleum’s oil disaster. “The ocean floor is one of the last great unexplored frontiers on Earth. (ROVs) are a great opportunity to get students involved in an expanding Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field,” Ennis said.

Bohatch and Ennis will study aboard a research vessel. “The point of the voyage is to experience work of actual underwater robots” and use a fully functional ROV, she said.

They will return to James Clemens with ROV materials for the new team, which will build their own ROV for spring 2014 competition. Ennis will sponsor underwater robotics and Bohatch will offer support.

“We hope to bring a SeaPERCH team up from Liberty,” Ennis said. Inexperienced students will work with SeaPERCH, while more advanced students will migrate to the MATE program. “We’ll recruit new members as the year progresses.”

Local hotels and the University of Alabama in Huntsville have offered their pools for robotics training. “Everyone has been very gracious,” Ennis said. “We also hope to use the lake behind James Clemens for some practices and to find a nine- to 12-foot pool in Madison.”

For more information, visit disl.org.

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