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Liberty teams rank nationally in underwater robotics

After organizing only two years ago, two underwater robotics teams from Liberty Middle School placed in the Top Ten nationally.

MIST members are eighth-graders Eric Lozano, Arvind Draffen and Caitlin McFadden and seventh-grader Cade Walsh.

Liberty teams competed in the Sea Perch National Robotics Challenge in Manassas, Va. on April 12.

Deep Six team with freshmen Stephen Arnsparger and Noah Eid (high school) placed seventh in salvage operation, 15th in obstacle course and ninth in presentation to earn sixth place overall nationally.

MIST (Masters In Solutions Technology) Team (junior high) rated ninth in salvage operation, 18th in obstacle course and fifth in presentation to receive ninth place. MIST members are eighth-graders Arvind Draffen, Eric Lozano and Caitlin McFadden and seventh-grader Cade Walsh.

Algebra teacher Nathan Pahman coaches Liberty’s robotics and rocketry teams. Team mentors were Dr. Clark Eid for Deep Six and Matt Harrison for Team MIST.

To engineer their robot, teams met several times weekly at Country Inn and Suites’s pool on Madison Boulevard, thanks to hotel manager Kiran Patel.

“Students built their robot using PVC pipe and various other parts including a tethered controller that they had to assemble,” Pahman said.

Both teams shared the same objectives:

* Obstacle course — Driving the robot through a series of hula-hoops positioned at various angles in about five feet of water. “The faster the better,” Pahman said.

* Simulated deep-water salvage operation — Retrieving weight buckets from the pool bottom.

In addition, the Liberty teams delivered a presentation and poster that documented their engineering and design efforts.

“The national ranking is so meaningful because this is only our second year in robotics and our first year involved in Sea Perch competition,” Pahman said.

“I was thrilled to have teams in both divisions place in the Top Ten in the nation. Hundreds of teams across the country competed for the right to attend,” Pahman said. About 40 teams competed in each division.

Mentors can form teams for grades 4-6 to compete locally and regionally. Pahman said underwater robotics involves more fun and less stress than other robotics competitions.

Pahman is willing to help all Madison schools to participate next year. For information, send email to npahman@madisoncity.k12.al.us or visit seaperch.org.

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